Donald Tusk rejects Boris Johnson’s backstop demands

Donald Tusk has publicly responded to Boris Johnson

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

European Council president Donald Tusk has rebuffed Boris Johnson’s call for the Irish backstop to be scrapped from the Brexit deal.

Mr Tusk said the backstop is “insurance to avoid a hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland until an alternative is found.

“Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. Even if they do not admit it,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Johnson sent a letter proposing “flexible and creative solutions” to prevent a hard Irish border.

He said leaving with a deal remains his “highest priority”, but this could not happen if the backstop remained part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Prime Minister said the backstop was “anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK as a state.”

“The backstop locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland,” he wrote.

“I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period, as part of the future relationship.”

The Prime Minister has also spoken with Irish premier Leo Varadkar and pledged free movement between the UK and Ireland will continue, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister made clear that the common travel area, which long predates the UK and Ireland joining the EU, would not be affected by the ending of freedom of movement after Brexit.”

The pair has agreed to meet in Dublin in early September.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd said Mr Johnson “seems to have forgotten” he voted for Theresa May’s Brexit deal that included the backstop.

“Whichever Brexit outcome he pursues, whether it's a disastrous no deal or this fantasyland wishlist, Boris Johnson clearly has no qualms about putting jobs, rights, prosperity or peace in Northern Ireland at risk,” he said.

Mr Johnson is headed to Berlin and Paris to meet with the leaders of Germany and France this week, ahead of G7 talks in the French city of Biarritz. It is his first global summit since he became Prime Minister.

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