Saturday 17 August 2019

Border crunch time for Ireland as Theresa May ponders fourth vote to save Brexit deal

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

The Government has conceded it will be very difficult for Ireland to simultaneously protect a hard border and the Good Friday Agreement, ahead of crunch meetings with EU leaders this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week and is expected to come under increased pressure over Ireland's plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit.

The UK is set to crash out of the UK on April 12, with European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee admitting Ireland will be left in a difficult position.

Mr Varadkar will fly to Paris on Tuesday to meet with Mr Macron. He will then meet with Ms Merkel during her visit to Dublin.

Under pressure: British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Reuters
Under pressure: British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Reuters

The meeting take place ahead of an emergency EU summit two days before Brexit and will centre on the UK's cliff-edge Brexit plans that were thrown into further turmoil last week after the House of Commons again voted against supporting British Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement.

The Taoiseach's meetings with his French and German counterparts will be Brexit focused, with discussions set to centre on protecting the integrity of the single market.

Ms McEntee's intervention yesterday shows how challenging it will be for the Government to offer Europe assurances on protecting the EU's final frontier with the UK while also managing the Good Friday Agreement by protecting against the establishment of a hard border with Northern Ireland.

"How we protect the single market and the customs union - these are discussions that we have been having and will continue to have into the coming week," Ms McEntee told RTE yesterday.

"It is about making sure that our obligations to the EU are fulfilled and the obligations we have as co-guarantors of an international peace treaty are also upheld.

"It is very difficult in the event of a no-deal to bring those two together. But we are absolutely determined to do that. We have always had the support of the EU and I don't see that changing."

Last night, Theresa May's Cabinet was considering calling a fourth vote on her deal, bolstered by their success in narrowing the margin of defeat to 58 votes on Friday from 230 votes in January. It had been rejected for a third time on Friday.

Parliament has voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit - but it remains the default position unless a deal is approved, Brexit is cancelled or the EU grants Britain another extension.

Sunday Independent

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