Ireland fury: Varadkar tells Boris his Brexit plan ‘backfired’ as he brands it a ‘mistake’

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Ireland’s deputy prime minister has said Downing Street has made a “mistake” by putting forward an Internal Market Bill to change elements of the trading relationship in Northern Ireland. Mr Varadkar added the Bill, which risks breaking international law, could also undermine any future trade deals with the rest of the world, including with the US.

Speaking in Co Kildare, ahead of the vote in the UK’s House of Commons later this evening, Mr Varadkar said: “I think what they have done – if it was a negotiating tactic – has now backfired.

“Countries all around the world, the US and other countries, are wondering if this is the kind of place we can do any deal with or any treaty with.”

The Internal Market Bill sets out the way trade within the UK will work once outside the EU’s single market and customs union.

Mr Johnson has received widespread criticism from Brussels, former prime ministers and at least 20 his own MPs.

Mr Varadkar has urged Mr Johnson withdrawal the Bill and warned “no country” would want to strike a future deal if the UK does not abide by international treaties.

He added: “Brexit was supposed to be about the UK being independent, being sovereign, being able to negotiate trade deals with America when they felt they have been held back by the European Union.

“If the UK becomes a country that no longer obligates its treaties, that doesn’t respect international law, there is no country that is going to want to deal with them.

“I think they have made a mistake in this regard and I hope they will reconsider.”

The Internal Market Bill could rewrite parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement relating to the provisions around all-Ireland trade.

The current protocol agreed in January ensures Northern Ireland remains aligned with EU customs rules – meaning goods travelling from Northern Ireland into the rest of the UK would be subject to checks.

In the event of a no deal outcome, the Bill aims to give ministers the powers to reduce checks on goods flowing from Northern Ireland into the rest of the UK and narrow the scope of EU state aid rules.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon the Prime Minister said he hoped the legislation would not be required but said it is necessary “legal safety net” to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister took the unusual step of opening the debate and insisting the Bill is “essential for guaranteeing the economic and political integrity of the UK”.

With trade talks remaining on the brink, Mr Johnson accused the EU of using Northern Ireland as a weapon in negotiations.

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He said: “In recent months the EU has suggested that it is willing to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense simply to exert leverage against the UK in our negotiations for a free trade agreement.”

He warned that the EU could seek to act in other “absurd ways”, by placing tariffs on trade within the UK.

Mr Johnson said that “if they fail to negotiate in good faith” the UK must introduce a “package of protective powers”.

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