Friday 19 July 2019

No scope for any further Brexit delays, says Taoiseach

Patience: Leo Varadkar says there is hostility to another delay. Photo: Julien Warnard/Pool via REUTERS
Patience: Leo Varadkar says there is hostility to another delay. Photo: Julien Warnard/Pool via REUTERS
John Downing

John Downing

The only way the UK can obtain another Brexit extension is by holding a general election or a new referendum, the Taoiseach has warned.

Leo Varadkar also welcomed the publication of an EU Commission report on details surrounding the negotiation of the Border backstop.

The document shows that British officials were joint architects of the backstop, dismisses a technical solution to replace it, and notes it ranges far beyond protecting north-south trade.

At the opening of an EU leaders' summit, Mr Varadkar warned of "enormous hostility" in the European Union toward allowing the UK to delay Brexit again beyond the October 31 deadline in order to seek new concessions from Brussels.

The Taoiseach's strong comments came as outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrived for what could be her last summit, and Boris Johnson took another step toward succeeding her.

"While I have endless patience, some of my colleagues have lost their patience with the UK and there is enormous hostility to any further extension," Mr Varadkar said last night.

No wiggle room: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman
No wiggle room: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

"I think an extension could really only happen if it were to facilitate something like a general election in the UK or something like a second referendum if they decided to have one," the Taoiseach added.

"What won't be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes," he said, referring to a series of non-binding votes in the UK parliament that failed to end the impasse.

"The time for that is long since past," he said.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, a frequent UK critic, warned that the rejected deal was all that was on offer, even after the leadership in London changed.

"If they choose Boris Johnson, then he will have to deal with us on the agreement we have done with Theresa May," Mr Bettel said.

In recent campaign promises, Mr Johnson said he would reopen Mrs May's exit deal and dismantle the backstop element, which is more recently billed as the most disagreeable aspect of the deal.

Mr Johnson also suggested he could negotiate a new arrangement with Ireland during a transition period after Brexit, but Mr Varadkar dismissed this idea.

"There's no withdrawal agreement without a backstop and there's no implementation period without a withdrawal agreement," he said.

On the newly released report, Mr Varadkar said he was very familiar with its contents and understood various reasons why it was withheld until now.

Dutch premier Mark Rutte replied "no" when asked if there was any realistic prospect of a renegotiation of the deal before the Brexit deadline of October 31.

Mr Rutte said there was scope for changes to the political agreement subsequent to the withdrawal agreement.

Irish Independent

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