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Europe

Irish Brexit backstop be gone, says Britain PM contenders

media The two candidates for Britain's next prime minister: Boris Johnson (l) & Jeremy Hunt (r) REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

The top contender as Britain’s next prime minister has said he will eliminate the measure to ensure an open border between Northern Ireland in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, part of the European Union.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he rejected "time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all these elaborate devices", referring to the Irish border “backstop” issue and a possible exit clause during a leadership debate on Monday.

The Irish backstop, which outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated, is viewed by Brexiteers as keeping Britain beholden to EU trade rules. EU leaders, on the other hand, said that Britain cannot withdraw without a backstop.

Johnson, who has said all along that he would not have a problem exiting the EU without an agreement by 31 October deadline, appeared to confirm his stance on the issue.

His rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, agreed during the debate that the "the backstop, as it is, is dead."

An invisible border, not one manned with border patrols, also known as a ‘hard’ border, is considered a vital part to the regional economy, but also the basis for keeping the peace process together that ended the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland.

A hard border is “beyond contemplation”, conservative lawmaker and head of the parliament Northern Ireland committee Simon Hoare told Sky News.

“This is a very, very dangerous step that both men seem to have taken yesterday," he added.

Economic experts say Brexit without an agreement could have major financial implications, with possible trade disruptions.

On Tuesday, the British pound fell to a 27-month low against the US dollar to $1.2408, hours after both Johnson and Hunt spoke about the strong possibility of no-agreement Brexit.

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