Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said Britain's exit from the European Union without a deal looks increasingly likely — but that a referendum on Northern Ireland’s future would be “divisive.”
The Taoiseach told journalists in Belfast that there had been "historical revisionism" about the withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of Brexit and the so-called Irish "backstop". He said the agreements were "co-designed" with Britain, rather than having been imposed on it.
New British PM Boris Johnson has indicated that he will not restart Brexit negotiations until the EU agrees to change the "backstop" clause, which Brussels wants to ensure Ireland's border with Northern Ireland remains open after Britain leaves the bloc.
"In terms of no deal, you know, as time goes on, yes no-deal becomes more likely and that's why we've been preparing for it even since before the referendum took place,” Varadkar said.
He also said the consequences would be felt for years.
“This goes on and on and on for many many years,” he said. “This doesn't end, this is a permanent new status, a permanent change in the relationship between the EU and Ireland on the one hand, and the U.K. on the other. We're going to have to work through it."
Asked about a potential referendum on Northern Ireland splitting from the United Kingdom, he said he remained against the idea.
“We believe that there is a high probability that it would be defeated and it would be divisive, I think, here in Northern Ireland,” he said.