September 20, 2018 / 2:29 PM / a month ago

Irish PM says May promised him new border proposals

SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May told Ireland’s Leo Varadkar that she would make new proposals on the post-Brexit Irish border but presented nothing in writing, the Irish prime minister said on Thursday.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Ireland's Prime Minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attend a bilateral meeting during the informal summit of European Union leaders in Salzburg, Austria, September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Speaking after two days of talks with EU leaders in Austria, Varadkar said other states offered him their full support in the Brexit talks.

“All of the EU leaders ... gave me their absolute support in standing behind Ireland, saying that an agreement that doesn’t work for Ireland, doesn’t work for the EU,” the Irish premier told reporters.

“Next step is further negotiations with a view to the next summit to be held in October and then a summit after that in November,” he said, adding he would want a deal “in principle” next month so it can be formalised at the following meeting.

“Time is running out, people need to know what is going to happen after (Brexit day on) March 29,” the Irish leader said. “I really think we have to redouble and intensify our efforts.”

Varadkar reiterated that the emergency “backstop” solution for the Irish border after Brexit had to be “workable and legally operative”. He said he was waiting for a new proposal to come from London.

“Nobody is trying to dispute the constitutional status of Northern Ireland,” Varadkar said. “We need to get away from the idea of anyone trying to create a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. That’s not the EU’s objective.”

He said the EU was reworking the existing backstop proposal by the bloc to say that agriculture and phytosanitary checks would be the only physical controls that would need to take place between Northern Ireland and Britain’s mainland.

He also spoke in favour of offering London a declaration as detailed as possible on post-Brexit ties. While he said the remaining EU states did not want to punish Britain, they were determined to defend their single market.

“The whole Brexit project is full of risks. I believe we can come to a deal between the European Union, including Ireland, and the UK. But of course that deal has to go through the British parliament, the European Parliament. There are risks at all steps of this,” Varadkar said.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Elizabeth Piper

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