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Leo Varadkar warns the only 'Plan B' is exit without agreement

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is hoping the deal passes its Commons test today
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is hoping the deal passes its Commons test today

By David Reed

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that the only "plan B" to Boris Johnson's Brexit agreement is no-deal.

He suggested that while Ireland would back another extension, other EU leaders were split on the idea.

Mr Varadkar was speaking in Brussels on the eve of today's crunch Commons vote.

He said: "Plan B is no-deal, and we're all preparing for that, and we've all been preparing for that since the referendum, but let's hope that doesn't happen.

"Bear in mind this has to be ratified by both the House of Commons and European Parliament. We can be pretty confident it will be ratified in the European Parliament - the House of Commons, we'll see over the next couple of days.

"If the House of Commons does vote yes, that will put us in a position to stand down our no-deal preparations, but we won't stop them entirely as there is always an outside chance something could go wrong, so we could stand them down but not abandon them."

Asked if Thursday's deal is the last offer from the EU, Mr Varadkar replied: "It is."

Mr Varadkar made a plea to unionists to get behind the deal yesterday but the DUP will vote against it.

"The Queen will still be the Queen, the pound will still be the pound, people will still post letters in Royal Mail red letter boxes," he added.

"Northern Ireland will still be part of the United Kingdom and because of the Good Friday Agreement, that is protected until such a time, should that time ever arise, when the majority of the people in Northern Ireland vote otherwise."

Tanaiste Simon Coveney, meanwhile, said that a no-deal Brexit is now much less likely than it was a week ago.

Speaking in Cork, he also outlined his belief the European Council would "look seriously" at any UK request for an extension.

"We have a British Prime Minister that only a number of weeks ago was saying that he was going to leave the European Union, deal or no-deal, basically saying that a no-deal wasn't so bad," Mr Coveney said. "I think in some ways that was a negotiating tactic and that's fair enough. But we now have a deal and we have a British Prime Minister who is taking ownership of that deal and wants to sell it as the basis for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, while at the same time respecting and accepting the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland, that needs a unique solution, which it now has with this deal."

Should the deal be rejected, Mr Coveney said: "We have contingency plans in place for all scenarios, from a no-deal, which of course is a worst case scenario, to anything that's better than that. But if ratification doesn't happen tomorrow, it's really a matter for the British Parliament as to what happens then." He also sought to reassure unionists that there is "no threat to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland under the deal".

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