Sunday 20 October 2019

Varadkar warns EU will not allow May to delay Brexit without a 'clear purpose'

Leo Varadkar Photo: Tom Honan/PA
Leo Varadkar Photo: Tom Honan/PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the EU will not allow British Prime Minister Theresa May delay Brexit if she is merely looking for a “rolling cliff-edge”.

In a hardening of the Government’s line on a possible extension of Article 50, Mr Varadkar said there would need to be a clear purpose for such a move.

Previously Irish ministers have said they would not be an obstacle to a Brexit delay beyond March 29 – but Mr Varadkar’s comments in Dublin this morning are closer to the stance being taken by countries like France.

“Nobody across the European Union wants to see a rolling cliff edge where tough decisions just get put off until the end of April and then to the end of May and then maybe until the end of July.

“The uncertainty around Brexit is already worrying citizens. It is damaging business confidence, it is effecting our agriculture in particular. It will affect other industries as well as the week goes on. I really think if there is going to be an extension it has to be with a purpose, that extension,” he said.

Mr Varadkar also said any attempt to stall the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the House of Commons beyond “misses the point”.

Some reports in London today suggest Mrs May is coming under pressure to cancel the vote amid fears she is on course for a second dramatic defeat.

But the Taoiseach said: “We’re two and half years if not three years since the referendum. It is far too late for the United Kingdom to tell us what they want. The withdrawal agreement requires a compromise and this withdrawal agreement is already a compromise.”

Mr Varadkar leaves for the United States later today where he will meet with US President Donald Trump on Thursday as part of the St Patrick’s Day festivities.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has curtailed his travel plans for this week in order to be at home while the situation develops in London and Brussels.

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