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Boris Johnson's 'fantasy' Brexit demands slapped down by Irish PM in 1-hour call; The Prime Minister has written to the EU demanding the 'backstop' is scrapped - but he got short shrift from Leo Varadkar.

Byline: Dan Bloom

Boris Johnson's "fantasy" Brexit demands were slapped down last night by the Irish PM in a phone call lasting almost an hour.

Leo Varadkar brushed off the UK Prime Minister's demand to removethe "Northern Ireland backstop" clausefrom the 585-pageBrexitWithdrawal Agreement.

Mr Johnson officially made the call last nightin a four-page letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.

He said if the backstop - which could trap the UK in EU customs rules - is scrapped, MPs might approve a plan for Brexit.

But Downing Street admitted: "Taoiseach [Leo Varadkar] reiterated the EU27 position that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened.

"And [he] emphasised the importance of the legally operable guarantee to ensure no hard border and continued free trade on the island of Ireland."

Boris Johnson writes to Donald Tusk outlining his Brexit demands

What is the Brexit backstop? Northern Ireland policy explained

It leavesBoris Johnsonin deadlock a month after he took power and just 76 days before the October 31 Brexit deadline.

He is due to meet Germany's Angela Merkel tomorrow, France's Emannuel Macron on Thursday and Mr Varadkar next month.

But his Brexit wish list, sent to Brussels last night, was condemned as fantasy land by his opponents.

Mr Johnson said the backstop is "anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK" and could weaken the Northern Ireland peace process.

He said it should be removed, to be replaced with "alternative arrangements" by the end of 2020 while Brexit happens in the meantime.

Yet he did not make clear exactly what "alternative arrangements" it should be replaced with.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd said: "Whichever Brexit outcome he pursues, whether it's a disastrous no deal or this fantasyland wishlist, Boris Johnson clearly has no qualms about putting jobs, rights, prosperity or peace in Northern Ireland at risk."

EU diplomats also gave the letter a frosty reception.

One told Politico: "It's clear from the letter that renegotiation is the last thing the British government wants. Brexit started and ends with preservation of the Tory party."

Another told the website: "It's a joke."

In his call with Mr Vardakar, Mr Johnson said free movement between the UK and Ireland will not end in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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That is despite Home Secretary Priti Patel working on a strict end to freedom of movement for other EU citizens - a plan that has prompted warnings of another Windrush.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister made clear that the common travel area, which long predates the UK and Ireland joining the EU, would not be affected by the ending of freedom of movement after Brexit."

The common travel area is a special zone combining the Republic of Ireland and the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, which dates back to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Meanwhile Mr Johnson spoke for the fourth time in four weeks last night to Donald Trump - who boasted he can move "rapidly" on a post-Brexit free trade deal.

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The US President, who will meet Boris Johnson at the G7 this weekend, said: "Great discussion with Prime Minister Boris Johnson today. We talked about Brexit and how we can move rapidly on a US-UK free trade deal."

But a senior US politician warned the Senate would move to block a trade deal if it puts the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wrote to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warning Congress could work on a cross-party basis to block a deal.

Mr Schumer called for the Trump administration to stop "over-promising an unconditional and unrealistic" post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK.

The letter was also sent to Foreign SecretaryDominic Raab.

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Credit: PA

Boris Johnson had a phone call lasting almost an hour (stock photo)

Credit: PA

Leo Varadkar brushed off the UK Prime Minister's demand to remove the backstop

Credit: PA

The backstop could trap the UK in EU customs rules

Credit: Getty Images

Free movement between the UK and Ireland will not end in No Deal - unlike EU citizens
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Title Annotation:News,Politics
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 20, 2019
Words:702
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