'Time is tight' - Leo Varadkar seeking Brexit meeting with Boris Johnson next week
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is seeking a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson next week as he warned “time is tight” to secure a Brexit deal.
Mr Varadkar said that Mr Johnson’s plan to replace the backstop does not form the basis for deeper negotiation with the EU, but said there is still “plenty of time” for further proposals to be brought forward.
However, he later claimed that “time is tight” to secure a deal ahead of a European Council summit on 17 and 18 October.
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Speaking at a Fine Gael fundraising dinner in Dublin, Mr Varadkar refused to be drawn on setting an absolute deadline for Mr Johnson, but said that next Friday was “reasonable” before adding that an extra 24 or 48 hours could be found if needed.
Asked about the prospects of reaching a Brexit deal, he said: “It's possible at the European Council summit in two weeks time, but the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn't feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations.
“But there is plenty of time for the UK Government to put forward further proposals and we're in the process of trying to arrange a meeting between me and Prime Minister Johnson next week.”
Mr Varadkar said that the EU would agree to an extension “if there's a realistic prospect of a deal during that extension period”.
The Taoiseach said that Tuesday’s Budget would include a package of measures to support vulnerable sectors in the event of a no-deal Brexit and will include a tax package that will “correct anomalies and unfairnesses” in the system.
“This budget is different. It's a no deal budget so it has to be more conservative than previous budgets and what that means is no across the board income tax cuts and no across the board welfare increases,” he said.
“But there will be room for a package of modest ones targeted on the poorest and those most in need and there will be a tax package, albeit a minimal one, correcting some anomalies and unfairnesses that need to be corrected.”
The Taoiseach said the exact amount that the government will provide for Brexit contingency measures was not yet settled. But that it will involve a “financial package to save jobs and businesses that are viable in the long term but may be vulnerable as a consequence of Brexit”.
He added: “So as you can imagine, the area's most affected will be the ones most protected.
"That's agriculture and the food industry, fisheries, also exporters' to the UK and the tourism industry as well and we'll have to as well have a focus on the border region, which could be very much affected too.”