Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD says the Government’s comfort with an October deadline for agreement on the backstop is a serious miscalculation, putting Ireland in a weaker negotiating position regarding an open border.

Deputy Donnelly was reacting to comments made by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels where he stated that the deadline for agreeing the wording of the backstop agreement has been pushed back to October.

Deputy Donnelly said, “Things are going from bad to worse this week for Ireland on Brexit. An initial agreement was reached in December on how to avoid a hard border, including the ‘backstop’. Draft legal wording was published by the Brexit Task Force weeks ago, and all efforts should have been focused on securing agreement on the border for the EU Council meeting which began today. But now we hear from the Taoiseach that it might not even be agreed by the June Council meeting, and that the Irish Government is okay with an October deadline.

“The whole purpose of structuring the Brexit talks in two phases was to ensure agreement was reached in phase one on several critical issues, including the Northern Ireland border. Only then were the talks to move to phase two, including future trade and a transition period. Now we have a situation whereby a transition period has been agreed, and advanced discussions are set to get underway on trade without Ireland having secured any agreed wording on the border.

“Ireland’s leverage on the border issue is rapidly declining the further the talks continue between the EU and Britain. As the talks progress, many other important issues for other EU member states will come to the fore, with the border becoming one of many competing priorities.

“What has the Irish Government actually secured at this point? They told us they had a ‘bullet proof’, ‘cast-iron’, ‘rock solid’ agreement in December. But the UK rejected Ireland’s interpretation of that agreement. They UK then went on in February to emphatically reject the EU’s proposed legal wording on the backstop. And now in March as we have is a UK commitment to ‘a’ backstop, but with no agreement as to what that might actually be.

“Allowing the border issue to remain unresolved right to the end of the Brexit talks is a huge mistake.”