Varadkar: Hard Brexit would be a "monumental disaster and political failure"

The British Chancellor, meanwhile, has said he 'regrets' referring to the EU as the 'enemy'

Varadkar: Hard Brexit would be a "monumental disaster and political failure"

Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Cabinet has been briefed on the worst-case scenario effects of a hard Brexit.

At a special meeting in UCC, both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney accepted EU leaders will not be allowing talks to move to the 2nd stage as hoped next week.

However, Leo Varadkar says that progress could happen by December's EU meeting - stressing that nobody wants a hard Brexit.

He explained: "It's always been a possibility from the very start, but I'm confident that it won't be the outcome.

"Nobody is advocating a hard Brexit - it would be some monumental disaster and political failure all round if that's the outcome that we ended up with."

He said that there is some 'scenario planning' happening in case of a worst-case outcome.

However, he noted: "Not too long ago, during the financial crisis, there was a plan as to what we would do if the euro collapsed - and thankfully that didn't happen."

It comes as the Labour leader Brendan Howlin called on the Taoiseach to make a statement on the progress of Brexit talks.

He observed: "The Taoiseach knows he has my support in this critical national endeavour so I am calling on him now to take the opportunity to update the Dáil on the progress of those discussions. 

"It is vital that Ireland keeps its eye on the ball on this critical national issue."

'The opponents are out there'

Meanwhile, the British Chancellor Philip Hammond has said he 'regrets' referring to the EU as 'the enemy' in an interview.

He earlier told Sky News: "My message is this: I understand that passions are high and I understand that people have very strong views about this but we're all going to the same place, we all have the same agenda.

"The enemy, the opponents are out there, they're on the other side of the negotiating table. Those are the people we have to negotiate with, negotiate hard to get the very best deal for Britain."

In a pair of tweets this evening, he explained: "In an interview today I was making the point that we are united at home. I regret I used a poor choice of words."

Yesterday, the EU's lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier revealed he would advise EU member states not to progress to talks on a future trade relationship with the UK when leaders gather in Brussels next week.

After the latest round of negotiations with British representatives, Mr Barnier said he would not be able to report "sufficient progress" on the key withdrawal issues - the financial settlement, citizens' rights and Northern Ireland.

"We are at a state of deadlock on this question, which is very disturbing," he said, before declaring the EU would not make "concessions" on any of the three divorce issues.