Leo Varadkar certainly talks tough when it comes to Brexit, but is the Irish PM preparing to back down? Mr S. only asks because the Taoiseach conceded this morning that he is ‘willing to compromise’ over Brexit. This marks something of a change from his earlier comments in which he has repeatedly dismissed alternatives to the backstop, or regulatory alignment across the Irish border. Here is what Varadkar said on RTE today:
‘The objective is to avoid the emergence of a hard border between north and south as a result of Brexit. What I care about is achieving those objectives and I am willing to compromise providing those objectives are achieved. And those objectives are that Brexit should not lead to the emergence of a hard border between north and south. That the rights of citizens in Northern Ireland are fully protected and that we preserve north/ south co-operation, the all-Ireland economy, the Good Friday agreement. That’s what matters.’
Varadkar was then asked whether this softer tone could ‘encroach’ on the backstop itself. He said:
‘I’m going to have to listen to the prime minister whenever he is elected and see if they have any meaningful or workable suggestions…’
Yet only last month, Varadkar had this to say:
‘We can’t accept that alternative arrangements are an alternative to a backstop unless we see what they are, know how they would work and see them demonstrated. That hasn’t been done yet and I don’t see that being done this side of October 31, which is why we certainly can’t accept the deletion of the backstop.’
So what’s changed? In this week’s Spectator, Liam Halligan writes that ‘Leo Varadkar gambled on the British government either cancelling Brexit or getting roped in by the backstop to accept Brexit in name only. The Taoiseach lost that gamble — and his strategy now lies in tatters’.
Mr S. can’t help but wonder whether Varadkar is starting to regret all that tough talk…