Belfast Telegraph

Irish premier says Brexit extension ‘better than no-deal’

Leo Varadkar said he would agree to an extension if it was put on the table by the British PM.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore and Rebecca Black, PA

The Irish premier has said Ireland would likely agree to a request by the UK for a Brexit extension.

Speaking in Denmark, moments after court documents revealed the UK Prime Minister will ask for a delay if he fails to get a deal with Brussels for the UK’s departure from the EU, Leo Varadkar said if Boris Johnson submits a request for an extension, he would agree.

“I’ve always said that Brexit doesn’t end with the UK leaving, it’s just the next phase of negotiations, but if the UK were to request and extension, we would consider it, most EU countries would only consider it for good reason, but an extension would be better than no deal,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking alongside the Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen, who also agreed to a Brexit extension, before he added that he still believes a deal is possible at the EU Council Summit in mid-October.

“Our focus is on securing an agreement and getting a deal at the EU Council Summit,” the Taoiseach added.

“I believe that’s possible but in order for it to be possible all sides have to reaffirm the shared objectives, when this started two or three years ago, coming to an agreement required no hard border between Ireland, north and south, that the integrity of the Single Market of the European Union will be protected, and that the all-island economy will be protected.

“What we need to do is refocus on those objectives and come to an agreement by the middle of October, and I think that is possible.”

DUP leader Nigel Dodds condemned the Irish Government again on Friday over its criticism of the UK’s proposal plan for leaving the EU.

“Some of the tone, the rhetoric and substance from both the Taoiseach and from Simon Coveney yesterday was deeply unfortunate,” he said, speaking at Hillsborough Castle after a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith.

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DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster speak to media at Hillsborough Castle after meeting NI Secretary Julian Smith. (Rebecca Black/PA)

“For Leo Varadkar to go down a list of possible outcomes that would suit the Irish government, talking about Irish reunification and all sorts of fanciful ideas and then saying that the backstop basically was the only other way forward, making it clear in terms that there would be no way out, there would be no alternative to that, that we would be trapped forever in that backstop, he let the cat out of the bag. It was deeply unfortunate and it shows a lack of willingness to engage when he knows that the current backstop and Withdrawal Agreement will not get the support of Parliament.

“We do need people to engage, they need to be open to ideas and they need to respect the consent principle in Northern Ireland and not set it aside when it doesn’t suit them.”

When pressed on DUP criticism earlier, Mr Varadkar said he is “not interested in a quarrel”.

“On what I said yesterday, I don’t think I said anything about the DUP, so I can’t regret a comment I didn’t make – what I can say is that I’m not interested in a quarrel with anyone,” he said.

“I’m interested in solutions, any solution has to have the support of the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland. What’s been put on the table by Mr Johnson is not supported by business or civil society in Northern Ireland, it’s only supported by one political party, so there’s a long way to go.

“Democracy matters, and any agreement that affects Ireland deeply has to have support from people on both parts of the island.”

PA

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