GARRYVOE, Ireland (Reuters) – The gap between Britain and the European Union over Brexit remains “very wide”, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday, as British leader Boris Johnson prepared to make a renewed push to reach an exit deal with the bloc.
FILE PHOTO: Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) and Defence Minister Leo Varadkar speaks during a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
Johnson will hold his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday but signs of a breakthrough remained distant with his government’s Northern Irish allies pouring cold water on suggestions the contentious border “backstop” could be reworked.
With Johnson vowing to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, the EU has focused in recent days on whether the main disagreement – over plans to guarantee the border in Ireland remains open – can be bridged.
A deal reached last year with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May would guarantee regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland to help keep goods flowing. But the British parliament rejected it three times.
Johnson says the border backstop must be replaced to reach any deal. The EU says any replacement must have the same effect, and so far London has offered no proposals that are good enough.
“We always said we are willing to explore alternative arrangements … But so far I think it is fair to say that what we are seeing falls very far short of what we need,” Varadkar told Ireland’s RTE radio in an interview.
“The gap is very wide,” he said.
Johnson’s office said he would hold talks with Juncker in Luxembourg on Monday as