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Ireland's PM warns there can be 'no backsliding' on withdrawal agreement

Liam McBurney/PA Wire

By Rebecca Black, PA

Ireland's premier has urged the UK Government to honour all the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after reports suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered his Brexit team to find ways to "get around" the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Sunday Times reported that officials in Taskforce Europe are seeking to evade Irish Sea checks on goods passing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Speaking in Dublin on Monday, Mr Varadkar said the Withdrawal Agreement is an international treaty and he expects the UK to "honour that in full".

The Taoiseach said there can be "no backsliding" and urged Mr Johnson's Government to focus on the next phase of negotiating a free trade agreement.

"We totally understand why they may want to minimise any checks at the ports and airports in Northern Ireland, we want to do that too, but the agreement clearly says if there have to be checks anywhere, they would happen at the ports and airports in Northern Ireland rather than on the land border between north and south," he said.

"So I am saying to the British Government, there can be no backsliding on the Withdrawal Agreement, let's not even go there and let's focus instead on what should be the next phase, which is negotiating a free trade agreement between the European Union and Ireland and the UK so we can protect jobs and our economy."

Mr Johnson's Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to sign off on the proposals, it was reported, which are expected to be presented in Parliament and published online on Thursday.

The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU leaves Northern Ireland within the UK customs area but all EU procedures will apply to goods arriving there.

A UK Government spokesman responded to the reports, saying the UK will "comply with its obligations".

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