Jack Quann
Jack Quann

19.25 8 Apr 2019


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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told British Prime Minister Theresa May he is open to an extension of the Brexit deadline.

The two leaders spoke by phone on Monday, after Mr Varadkar met with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Dublin.

Mr Varadkar also spoke to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

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A spokesperson said Mrs May spoke about her recent letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, seeking an extension of the Article 50 deadline, and her ongoing preparations for the summit on Wednesday.

Mr Varadkar repeated his "openness" to an extension of the deadline.

Earlier, Mr Barnier said the European Union will stand "fully behind Ireland" during Brexit.

He requested the visit to Dublin to show EU solidarity with Ireland, ahead of the key European Council meeting on Wednesday.

Speaking after the talks at Government Buildings, Mr Barnier said: "Of course, our discussions today also focused on what would happen in Ireland in a possible no-deal scenario".

"There have been intensive discussions between our teams over the past weeks.

"Our goal is to protect the Good Friday Agreement, peace on this island and the integrity of the single market.

"It is not an easy task - but I am confident we will find operational solutions.

"One thing is certain: whatever happens, the EU will stand fully behind Ireland - the EU will stand fully behind Ireland", he repeated for emphasis.

"You have our full support, and I have said before the backstop is currently the only solution we have found to maintain the status-quo on the island of Ireland.

"If the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, we would not discuss anything with the UK until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as for citizens right and the financial settlement.

"Throughout all of this, the EU27 will remain fully united as it has been since day one".

Mr Varadkar said: "I sincerely hope that it'll be possible to build sufficient consensus in Westminster to enable ratification of the withdrawal agreement, and an orderly Brexit thereafter.

"From Ireland's perspective, we're open to extending the deadline to allow time for these discussions to run their course and come to a conclusion.

"Above all, we want the withdrawal agreement to be ratified so that negotiations can begin on the future relationship".

The men also discussed contingency planning at EU-level and domestic level for a no-deal Brexit.

Earlier, Mr Barnier also met with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee.

It comes ahead of another crucial week in the Brexit process.

Mrs May will hold talks with France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel a day before the emergency Brexit summit.

She will travel to Berlin and then Paris on Tuesday, in a last-gasp round of Brexit diplomacy before a gathering of EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday.

The summit is due to decide on a further extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, requested by Mrs May in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit on Friday.

Mrs May has asked for a second delay to Brexit to last up until June 30th, but it is for the leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states to agree whether or not to accept this.

Mrs May last week altered her Brexit strategy to focus on winning support from the UK Labour Party for the withdrawal agreement.

Those talks broke down on Friday as Labour accused the British government of refusing to make any changes to the wording of the political declaration on the proposed future UK-EU relationship, which accompanies the withdrawal agreement.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly demanded Mrs May ditch one of her Brexit red lines in order to seek a post-Brexit customs union with the EU.

Despite there being no further talks between the government and Labour over the weekend, Mrs May held open the possibility of striking a cross-party deal in a video message.

Additional reporting: Stephen McNeice and Sean Defoe


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Brexit Talks Dublin Government Buildings Helen McEntee Leo Varadkar Michel Barnier Taoiseach

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