Belfast Telegraph

'There is a job to be done': Theresa May confirms further talks as UK ramps up no deal preparation

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said he still believed a no-deal Brexit was an ‘unlikely scenario’.

Theresa May has confirmed she will hold further talks with EU leaders in the coming days as the UK ramps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May addressed the gathered media in Brussels on Friday afternoon, following two days of crunch negotiations aim on the role of the backstop in the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

"I was crystal clear about the assurances which are needed on the backstop having heard the views of MPs in the House of Commons," Mrs May.

"I reiterated that it is in the interests of the EU as well as the UK to get this over the line. A disorderly Brexit would be good for no one."

The Prime Minister said commitments had been made by the EU to "work speedily on a future relationship" to be in place by the end of 2020, and for the backstop only to be used temporarily if it was required.

She noted these were formal conclusion from the EU, and as "these conclusions have legal status and therefore should be welcomed".

She added: "MPs will require further assurances, and I have discussed that this morning with our EU partners."

Mrs May acknowledged there was a scenario in which the United Kingdom would not secure a deal and would have to trade on WTO rules.

"As you know Government is making no deal preparations, we are stepping up no deal preparations," she said.

She was also asked about video of a terse discussion between herself and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from Thursday morning which has emerged on social media.

“I had a robust discussion with Jean Claude Juncker," she said.

"I think that’s the sort of discussion you are able to have when you have developed a working relationship and you are able to work together."

Ahead of the commencement of talks on Friday morning, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said the European Union was united behind the need for a border backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Taoiseach said the controversial issue was not just of concern to the Irish, as fellow EU leaders saw the measure as vital to protect the integrity of the European single market.

In Brussels for the second day of the European Council meeting, Mr Varadkar said he was “very satisfied” with the summit conclusions on Brexit which made clear the withdrawal agreement was not “up for renegotiation”.

The Taoiseach said he still believed a no deal was an “unlikely scenario” despite the EU ramping up preparations for such an eventuality.

“As Europe, we reaffirmed our commitment for the need for a backstop,” he said.

It is not just an Irish issue, it is very much a European issue as well. It is very much a case of the European Union being one-for-all and all-for-one Leo Varadkar on the border backstop

“An open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can’t be a backdoor to the single market.

“That’s why European countries also very strongly support backstop. It is not just an Irish issue, it is very much a European issue as well.

“It is very much a case of the European Union being one-for-all and all-for-one.”

The backstop, which will come into effect if a wider trade deal between the UK and EU fails to materialise, will see Northern Ireland adhere to a range of EU regulatory rules in order to facilitate free-flowing trade across the border.

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing widespread opposition to the measure at Westminster amid claims it will undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom by creating an economic border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr Varadkar said the issue could not be deferred to the trade talks post-withdrawal.

“It’s not just an Irish issue, it’s a European issue,” he said.

“It’s about protecting the peace, keeping the border open, also protecting the single market and making sure we answer this question of the Irish border now, so no side can use it as leverage in the future relationship talks, which we are willing to start as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.”

The Taoiseach said while the EU was willing to offer “clarifications or explanations” to Mrs May, he reiterated that a renegotiation of the deal was not an option.

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