Taoiseach warns Corbyn that only big change could reopen Brexit deal
Leo Varadkar warned Jeremy Corbyn that there would have to be a fundamental change to UK red lines.
The UK cannot continue to be granted rolling Brexit extensions unless there is a general election or a second referendum in the pipeline, the Irish premier has warned the UK Labour leader.
Leo Varadkar told Jeremy Corbyn that the Withdrawal Agreement was “closed” and could only be altered if there was a fundamental change to UK red lines.
The Taoiseach and Mr Corbyn met at Government Buildings in Dublin on Thursday morning.
Good meeting with @jeremycorbyn in @merrionstreet today on Northern Ireland, #Brexit and Westminster. Main topics were restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland, our shared concerns about a no deal scenario, and avoiding a hard border. We’ll be staying in touch pic.twitter.com/bhM1yun7CZ— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 30, 2019
Mr Corbyn also held a meeting with Irish president Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain during his visit to the Irish capital.
It comes as pressure mounts on Mr Corbyn to back a second referendum on Brexit.
The Labour leader said on Wednesday that an election or referendum would be the “only way out” of the Brexit crisis.
He also said that he would seek to renegotiate Brexit to get a better deal for the UK that avoided a no-deal outcome.
After the meeting the Taoiseach told the an Irish parliamentary committee: “I very much imparted that message as politely that I could that the chances of a further extension are pretty slim and the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Irish protocol and the backstop, is closed from our point of view.”
Great discussion with Irish Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar on the importance of ensuring an open border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as maintaining a close trade relationship with Europe.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 30, 2019
We must avoid the damage to our economy that No Deal would cause. pic.twitter.com/linM6mJsJe
Mr Varadkar said the “only way” that the Withdrawal Agreement could change would be if there was a “fundamental change in red lines from the next UK prime minister or the next UK government” such as a decision to stay in the customs union or the single market.
“There is a hardening view across the European Union that we cannot continue to have rolling extensions,” he added.
“While there could potentially be a further extension if there was an election, in order to allow that election to happen, or if there was a second referendum, I don’t think it’s viable to believe that there would be sufficient support or unanimous support… for a further extension while the UK continues to figure it out or for another set of indicative votes,” he said.
The meeting lasted an hour and a half and a spokesman for Mr Varadkar said the pair shared their “serious concerns” about a no-deal scenario and its “inherent dangers, including the possibility that the UK may end up in a no-deal situation by default unless alternatives are pursued”.
They also focused mainly on the need to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland and the importance of ongoing engagement with all political parties in the region.
The importance of avoiding any return of a hard border on the island of Ireland was also discussed.
Mr Corbyn was shielded from the media on his way into Government Buildings and there were no media opportunities afterwards.
A spokesman for Mr Higgins said the president and the Labour leader had known each other for decades, adding: “The president and Mr Corbyn had a lengthy and comprehensive meeting at which they discussed a range of current issues including Irish-UK relations, Brexit, the future of the European Union and Northern Ireland.”
President Michael D. Higgins with British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning. pic.twitter.com/62DUlNVfWJ— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) May 30, 2019
On his arrival in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn met the Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King to discuss issues facing workers north and south of the border in light of Brexit.
He told reporters he would seek to renegotiate Brexit to get a better deal for the UK that avoided a no-deal outcome, despite the EU being clear that the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation.
Asked if a second referendum is the only option for the UK, the Labour leader said: “The referendum would be on a negotiated deal or alternatives to that. It’s not a rerun of 2016.”
Mr Corbyn also met Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin on Wednesday evening.
This evening @brendanhowlin met @uklabour Leader @jeremycorbyn. They discussed #Brexit, the impact of the upcoming Tory leadership election on both of our countries and how we can avoid a hard border on our island. pic.twitter.com/NGP5zdjDFt— The Labour Party (@labour) May 29, 2019
The Irish Labour Party tweeted: “They discussed Brexit, the impact of the upcoming Tory leadership election on both of our countries and how we can avoid a hard border on our island.”
Afterwards Mr Howlin said he was confident the UK Labour Party would “resist a no-deal scenario no matter who becomes Conservative leader”.