Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to "chaos" but ultimately could bring about the same divorce deal rejected by the British parliament. Veradkar gave his warning at the World Economic Forum in Davos where the deadlocked divorce has been a recurrent topic, with just weeks to go before Britain is meant to quit the European Union on March 29.
The fate of the Irish border is the biggest stumbling block in the exit talks, with the opposition in London over a so-called "backstop" in the deal binding Britain into an EU customs union until new trading ties are agreed. The premier said Ireland would have a "major dilemma" in the case of no deal, with Dublin then under EU obligation to treat its border with Northern Ireland as an international frontier.
But he told reporters that both Britain and Ireland "would have responsibilities to abide by the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process" for Northern Ireland, which rules out imposing a hard border.
Given the predicament, Varadkar said, "we would end up in a situation whereby the EU, Ireland and the UK would have to come together in order to honour our commitment to the people of (all of) Ireland". "So after a period of chaos, we would perhaps end up where we are now with a very similar deal."
Asked about the vexed border issue, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also ruled out a hard border, raising the spectre of violence not seen since Northern Ireland's "Troubles" ended in the 1990s. "What does a hard border mean? The end of the Good Friday Agreement ... potentially back to the Troubles, we have seen in Ireland. Nobody wants that," he said.
Turning to the economy, Varadkar said Ireland would be on a better footing than Britain if the latter crashes out of the EU with no deal. "We know what our position is in the world. We're staying at the heart of the European Union," he said.
Britain "will face enormous difficulties in a no deal scenario", while Ireland "will still be in the single market and will still be part of all those trade deals that come with being part of Europe," he said. His comments came a day after British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told AFP in Davos that Britain remained open for business no matter the outcome of Brexit.