Ray Bassett made his comments on the day Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faced harsh criticism from opposition politician Mark Daly, who accused him of failing to make the “necessary preparations” for a no deal outcome. And Mr Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said it was further evidence that the Taoiseach was feeling the heat as the clock ticks down to October 31, the date UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the bloc.
Mr Varadkar has been implacable in his insistence on the inclusion of a backstop arrangement for the country’s border with Northern Ireland.
Mr Bassett explained: “It’s been said that what Leo Varadkar is doing is the antithesis of diplomacy.
“Diplomacy is about talking to each other and coming up with a solution.
“The thing is none of the politicians in Ireland thought Brexit was going to go through, even after the vote, and a lot of the people in London along with them of course.
“When I pointed out it was a possibility, they all looked at me like I didn’t know what I was talking about.
“So I think Varadkar is now starting to feel the pressure as it gets closer.
“Theresa May is associated with the backstop, but if it all turns out badly, he will be associated with the backstop too.
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Taking into account incoming EU grants totalling £1.55billion (€1.7billion), this meant a net contribution of £1billion (€1.1billion), a figure he suggested would go up in 2020.
Mr Bassett also estimated a no deal Brexit would result in Ireland paying an extra £360million annually into the EU’s coffers on top of what they currently pay.
He said: “The Irish people are grateful to the EU as long as they give us money.
“They don’t realise that a lot of the time it is their own taxpayers’ money.”
Speaking today, Mr Daly, a senator with the country’s main opposition party Fianna Fail, said: “The Taoiseach has spoken as recently as the McGill summer school on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, especially faced as we are now with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, yet he is doing none of the necessary preparation in advance of the possible/probable referendum on a new agreed Ireland.”
Speaking at the McGill summer school last Friday, Mr Varadkar said that a no-deal Brexit would prompt more liberal unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland to consider joining a united Ireland.
Mr Varadkar was also accused of “Project Fear”-style rhetoric over a united Ireland after Brexit, with DUP leader Arlene Foster said he needed to “dial down the rhetoric”.
In a terse response, Mr Varadkar said: “In terms of engagement, I have never refused a meeting request from the DUP and never refused a phone call from Arlene either, and she has my number.
“I wouldn’t accept that criticism at all. What I would point out though that when it comes to negotiations on Brexit, they happen between the European Union, including Ireland on the one hand and the UK Government on the other.
“In terms of fear, I think we should be afraid of a no deal Brexit.”
“A no deal Brexit would have very serious impacts on the economy, north and south, and on Britain. It could have security implications as well and it could have constitutional implications.
“It’s something that we have to prepare for nonetheless. It is something we should be afraid about.”