Sunday 13 October 2019

Taoiseach says EU 'unlikely' to veto Brexit extension as May warned of 'existential threat' to party

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he believes the UK will be granted a Brexit extension and warned that any country that uses a veto against the move "wouldn't be forgiven".

Mr Varadkar said that it is "always a possibility", but that it would be "highly unlikely" for one of the 27 countries in the European Union to veto a longer extension on a Brexit deal.

However, he said that he personally believes that a further extension is the most likely option for Brexit as it stands, and that the UK don't want to leave without a deal.

"One thing I'm certain of is that the United Kingdom doesn't want to leave without a deal . Parliament has voted that way on several occasions now, it's one of the few things they can agree on," Mr Varadkar told RTÉ's Countrywide today.

"I think the likelihood is further extension, but what we want to avoid is an extension that leads to more indecision and more uncertainty.

"I'd prefer to see a longer extension during which the United Kingdom has more time to decide what future relationship it wants to have with the European Union, rather than the alternative which could be a rolling extension every couple of weeks or months."

Mr Varadkar said that Brexit was taking a "huge amount of time" and frustration for many people, but called for "solidarity and patience" in understanding the importance of the outcome for Ireland.

The Taoiseach also discussed the possibility of checks away from the border and said that the “logical” way to ensure a free-flowing Border would be for regulatory checks to take place.

"I'm absolutely certain that initial arrangements may be temporary arrangements and they will depend on what the United Kingdom decides to do.

"We know what we can do at ports and airports, any animals entering the European Union have to enter through a border inspection post, and we have those at Dublin and Shannon at the moment."

The Taoiseach's comments come after the British Prime Minister was warned that a lengthy delay to Brexit could destroy the Conservative Party, with a minister claiming it would be a Conservative "suicide note" if the UK had to fight the European elections.

UK Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the situation needed to be resolved quickly in order to avoid the "existential threat" posed if the UK remained in the EU at the time of the elections next month.

"It would be, I think, a suicide note of the Conservative Party if we had to fight the European elections," he said.

He said that if Labour could not sign up to a joint approach, then MPs should be forced to find a compromise through a preferential voting system in order to resolve the situation.

"We need to do that quickly because, I think, going into the EU elections for the Conservative Party, or indeed for the Labour Party, and telling our constituents why we haven't been able to deliver Brexit, I think would be an existential threat," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Downing Street has offered further talks with the opposition this weekend after efforts to find a breakthrough stalled, but Labour said the Prime Minister had to come forward with "genuine changes".

Chancellor Philip Hammond insisted the government had "no red lines" in the talks and he was "optimistic that we will reach some form of agreement with Labour".

At a meeting of EU finance ministers in Bucharest, he said: "The conversations with the Labour Party are continuing, they were continuing last night, we are expecting to exchange some more texts with the Labour Party today."

Asked about the prospect of a second referendum, he said: "We should try to complete this process in Parliament, that's the right way to do it. But we should be open to listen to suggestions that others have made.

"Some people in the Labour Party are making other suggestions to us, of course we have to be prepared to discuss them.

"Our approach to these discussions with Labour is that we have no red lines, we will go into these talks with an open mind and discuss everything with them in a constructive fashion."

With additional reporting from Press Association

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