Wednesday 16 January 2019

Varadkar is 'not sure' if British PM 'loathes' him

Opposition: EU ‘Supergirl’ Madeleina Kay stands in front of the anti-Brexit campaign bus in Co Louth. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Opposition: EU ‘Supergirl’ Madeleina Kay stands in front of the anti-Brexit campaign bus in Co Louth. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is "not sure" if the British prime minister "loathes" him but has also insisted it is "patently not the case" that they do not communicate.

Responding to reports in the British media that Theresa May dislikes him, Mr Varadkar said the two leaders have a good working relationship.

It comes as he also suggested that EU member states would be willing to extend Brexit Day beyond March 29 to help facilitate a second UK referendum if the British government moved in that direction.

Mr Varadkar has become a target for some British media outlets since insisting the Irish backstop must remain in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Over the weekend, the Brexit-supporting 'Daily Mail' claimed relations between the Taoiseach and Mrs May have become cold.

The newspaper also claimed she "loathes" him and had "outsourced communication with Dublin to her No 2, David Lidington, because the relationship is so chilly".

Asked about the reports, Mr Varadkar said: "I'm not sure if the feeling's true, and I'm not quite sure where that particular idea comes from."

He said the idea that contacts were only happening between the British cabinet secretary and the Tánaiste was "patently not the case because as recently as last week we spoke on the phone".

Mr Varadkar reiterated his belief that Mrs May can rescue both the UK and EU from a no-deal scenario next year.

 

Although the prime minister is roundly rejecting a push for a second referendum, Mr Varadkar said the EU would see it as a preferable option to the UK crashing out.

"I can't speak for 27 member states, but my sense is that if the United Kingdom were to seek an extension to Article 50 and if the alternative to that was them crashing out of the European Union without a deal, my feeling is that the 27 member states would agree to that extension because it would be in all our interests in those circumstances," he said.

"But, once again, I need to emphasise the request would need to come from the United Kingdom.

"We're not asking them to do that, we're not pressuring them to do that, but the fact is that the United Kingdom can take a no-deal scenario at any stage off the table.

"Nobody in Ireland, nobody in the EU, is threatening a no-deal, and it is within the power of the UK to take it off the table if they so wish."

Ireland is due to get two more seats in the European Parliament when the UK leaves, but Mr Varadkar indicated he would have no problem maintaining the status quo for next May's elections if required.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney is expected to update Cabinet on planning for a no-deal scenario today.

The Government will publish new details of its contingencies on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar said they spent Sunday "going through some plans we were making for a no-deal scenario, and also a deal scenario".

Around 45 pieces of legislation will be required to be passed in January and February, which could bring everything else in the Oireachtas to a virtual standstill.

Irish Independent

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