Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar willing to cut UK Government 'some slack' after Brexit extension request

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the Republic of Ireland are willing to cut the UK Government "some slack" after Prime Minister Theresa May requested a Brexit extension till the end of June.

Mr Varadkar was speaking as Mrs May prepares to make an address on Wednesday evening.

European Council President Donald Tusk has said that the EU will be willing to consider a short Brexit extension if MPs approve the Prime Minister's Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mr Varadkar said it was time to cut the UK Government some slack.

"There is a real risk that we wish to avoid of no-deal happening by accident despite people's best intentions," he said.

"It's time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days. "

He added that the Irish Government was willing to support both of those requests but that it was "not entertaining any change to the Withdrawal Agreement or the backstop".

Mr Varadkar said the reason why the Irish government was willing to cut the British government some slack was because it wanted to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

"There are some people who would take a much more hardline view that we shouldn't agree to an extension. There are others who take a view that an extension should be granted unconditionally," he said.

"The view I'm taking, and the view the Irish government is taking, is that we want to avoid no-deal on March 29. We believe that's what everyone in Europe and certainly in the UK wants as well. And, in that context, we are willing to cut the British government some slack."

Speaking at Dublin's Government Buildings Mr Varadkar said that Mrs May must now set out her extension plan.

 "I understand that she's going to speak to the country tonight and there's an emergency debate in parliament tonight as well," the Taoiseach said.

"That will be an opportunity for her to set out her plan, her timeline, as to how an extension would work.

"We always said we'd be open to an extension if there was a purpose to it and I think it's important that we hear from her first and we'll respond as 27, as the European Union, in the next couple of days."

Asked whether he believed that the French president will veto an extension, Mr Varadkar said: "No. It is my understanding, and people will know this from his public comments, that he is sceptical about an extension.

"A lot of people in the European Union want this resolved. It's been going on for over two years now. There's a lot of frustration across the European Union."

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