Former British diplomat Sir Peter Marshall told Express.co.uk exclusively that if not for the fault of the EU’s own guidelines, Brexit would have happened on March 29 as planned and today’s mad dash for Boris Johnson to meet with Leo Varadkar would have taken place right after the referendum result in June 2016. Sir Peter said: “If the Brexit negotiations had been conducted, as they should have been, in accordance with the terms of Article 50(2) of the Lisbon Treaty, i.e. taking account of the framework for our future relationship while agreeing on withdrawal terms, this UK/Ireland meeting would have taken place right at the start. “But because the EU insisted that their pestilential ‘guidelines’ should be the sole basis for negotiation, and refused to look ahead until we had agreed to pay what they think we owe them, we have had two years of unnecessary aggro.”
Sir Peter added: “The task now is to prevent Brussels from throwing a spanner into the works”.
His words come after Ireland Prime Minister Mr Varadkar met Mr Johnson today in a last-ditch attempt to resolve EU-UK backstop conflicts.
Westminster and Dublin – along with the rest of the EU – have been stuck in Brexit negotiations ever since Parliament repeatedly voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Many Brexiteers protested against the inclusion of Mrs May’s so-called ‘backstop’ – a temporary measure which would mean there were no border posts, physical barriers or checks on people or goods crossing over the Irish border.
While the EU negotiators and Mr Varadkar argue this is the only way to maintain peace between the two nations, Mr Johnson’s supporters believe this would go against the very point of Brexit, arguing that Northern Ireland would effectively still be part of the EU, involved in its customs union and single market.
Unionists also believe this would cause Northern Ireland to be separated from the rest of the UK.
Mr Varadkar has argued against this and instead sided with the EU. He claimed that a deal must be reached, as a no deal Brexit would cause “severe disruption” and not necessarily mean the end of the Brexit process.
Mr Varadkar has so far rejected several of Mr Johnson’s suggestions. Most recently, the Prime Minister had a new proposal which was dubbed “two borders, for four years”, where Northern Ireland would be able to choose between staying with the EU’s single market rules or a hard border with Ireland in a vote every four years.
The expert on multilateral diplomacy also questioned the legality of the Act after the Supreme Court ruled against the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament last month.
Sir Peter said: “The realisation is dawning that from the start the UK have allowed themselves to be taken for mugs.
“That is surely the main reason for the countrywide frustration we now see.”