Taoiseach warns "not much time left" to secure Brexit deal

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker is addressing a joint sitting of the Oireachtas this morning

Taoiseach warns "not much time left" to secure Brexit deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at Government Buildings in Dublin | Image via @merrionstreet on Twitter

Updated: 11.30

The Taoiseach has warned that time is running out to secure a Brexit deal.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after meeting European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker this morning.

Mr Juncker said he wanted to make it abundantly clear that the EU is behind Ireland in the negotiations - and that won't change.

Mr Varadkar said there needs to be progress made on the backstop deal to avoid a hard border:

"It is also abundantly clear that for there to be a withdrawal agreement and a period of transition or an implementation phase for the United Kingdom; there has to be full agreement on all issues.

"Unless everything is agreed, nothing is agreed.

"So let me be blunt - there is not much time left if we are to conclude an agreement and to have it operational by the UK leaves the European Union next March."

Mr Juncker again noted that the border issue is not a bilateral question between Ireland and the UK but is an "issue between the UK and the European Union as such."   

"We wanted to make it clear again and again that Ireland is not alone," he said.

"We have Ireland backed by 26 Member States and by the Commission – this will not change.

"I am strongly against any temptation to try to isolate Ireland and not to conclude a deal on Ireland. Ireland has to be part of the deal."

Mr Juncker has been addressing a joint sitting of the Oireachtas in Leinster House this morning.

He held talks with the Taoiseach along with the Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee this morning.

They discussed the state of play in Brexit negotiations ahead of a European Council meeting next week.

Other topics on the agenda included trade, the Economic and Monetary Union, EU migration and the EU budget.

President Juncker is accompanied by the European chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier on his visit to Ireland.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Varadkar said: "I'm very much looking forward to President Juncker's first visit to Ireland as Commission president.

"I will thank President Juncker and Michel Barnier for their ongoing support for Ireland and their show of solidarity throughout the Brexit negotiations.

"This is an important opportunity to assess the state of play in the Brexit negotiations.

"We need to see much more progress from the UK to implement the commitments they made in December and March, and I expect the UK’s efforts to intensify in the period ahead.

"President Juncker and I are both very committed to the European project and the benefits that it brings to citizens across the union.

"We will also discuss other key items on the agenda of next week's meeting of the European Council such as trade, ensuring a stable euro, and equipping the union with a budget for its future needs."

This evening the Taoiseach will host a dinner in honour of the visit of President Juncker in Dublin Castle.

This is Mr Juncker's first visit to Ireland as president of the European Commission.