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Brexit agreement remains best deal possible: Leo Varadkar

Speaking in Brussels, the Irish premier also said the backstop is needed to ensure there is no return to a hard border.

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Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Brussels (Francisco Seco/AP)

Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Brussels (Francisco Seco/AP)

Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Brussels (Francisco Seco/AP)

The EU is open to further discussion with the UK Government on Brexit but the Withdrawal Agreement remains “the best deal possible”, the Irish premier has said.

Leo Varadkar was speaking in Brussels on Wednesday as he discussed preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit with EU leaders.

Speaking alongside EU Council president Donald Tusk, Mr Varadkar said: “While we’re open to further discussions with the UK, the Withdrawal Agreement which was negotiated in good faith, over many months and agreed by 28 governments including that of the UK, stands.

“It remains the best deal possible.”

In relation to the Irish backstop, he added: “While we expect that the backstop will never be used, we agreed again today that it is needed as a legal guarantee to ensure that there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland while protecting the integrity of our European single market and customs union.

“I think the events in London and the instability in British politics in recent weeks demonstrates exactly why we need a legal guarantee and a solution that is operable, that we know will work and will last.”

The EU27 is not making any new offer.Donald Tusk

The Taoiseach thanked Mr Tusk for protecting the “hard won peace and stability” on the island of Ireland.

He said that if the UK’s intentions for the future relationship “were to evolve”, the EU would be “prepared to adapt the content and level of ambition in the Political Declaration while respecting its established principles”.

He added he had agreed with Mr Tusk that “in light of the ongoing uncertainty in London and the fast-approaching deadline”, preparations for a no-deal Brexit must intensify.

The Taoiseach made the comments at a press conference following his talks with Mr Tusk, the first of a series of meetings with senior EU representatives.

Mr Tusk said the EU is not making “any new offer” to British PM Theresa May on the Brexit deal.

“The position of the EU27 is clear, as expressed in the documents agreed with the UK Government – that is the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration,” Mr Tusk said.

“The EU27 is not making any new offer.”

He added: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

Mr Varadkar is also due to meet with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of the European Parliament steering group on Brexit Guy Verhofstadt, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan.

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Mr Varadkar speaking alongside European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels (Michelle Devane/PA)

Mr Varadkar speaking alongside European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels (Michelle Devane/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Mr Varadkar speaking alongside European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels (Michelle Devane/PA)

The leaders will discuss the detailed contingency planning under way in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Mrs May is due to travel to the Belgian capital on Thursday to meet EU leaders for the first time since the Withdrawal Agreement was overwhelmingly rejected in the House of Commons.

In a speech in Belfast on Tuesday, Mrs May restated her “unshakeable” commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland after Brexit.

She is meetings all five of the main parties at Stormont House on Wednesday.

PA