Belfast Telegraph

It's not my job to help May solve Brexit crisis, says Taoiseach Varadkar

By Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is not his job to help the Prime Minister come up with a solution to her Brexit dilemmas.

Ahead of a meeting of EU leaders this week, Mr Varadkar indicated that little progress will be made on resolving the issues over the Irish border.

But he said there will be a signal from the EU that negotiations must now intensify.

Asked what he could do to help the embattled Theresa May, Mr Varadkar replied: "It's not my job to help Mrs May.

"The people of the United Kingdom decided on Brexit and it's not my job to help Prime Minister May or the United Kingdom government.

"It's my job to make sure that we don't have a hard border on our island and make sure that whatever the new trading relationship is between the UK and the EU, that the negative effect of this is minimised," he added.

The draft conclusions of Thursday's EU summit have already been agreed by the 27 EU member states before the leaders' meet.

They acknowledge that some progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations - but not on how to keep the Irish border open after the UK leaves the union.

"EU countries are reaffirming their commitment to insisting that there is a backstop in the withdrawal agreement. There can be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop," Mr Varadkar said last night.

He said negotiations "need to intensify in the coming weeks".

"We are waiting for the British to produce their white paper on the future relationship. That is due in early July.

"It will be an intensification of negotiations rather than a stalling of negotiations," the Taoiseach said.

The possibility of a 'no deal' Brexit is also now looming large with EU countries set to agree to ramp up preparations for the worst case scenario.

Mr Varadkar said: "I don't think that is likely. Nobody does but we have to think it is a possibility. And that means making preparations in our ports and airports for that eventuality," he added.

He noted that October is "the last time that you could realistically have a withdrawal agreement finalised because it does require parliamentary ratification both by the UK parliament and the European Parliament and we would like to give the time between the end of October and the end of March to do exactly that".

But he added: "I think really what is required is that negotiations intensify rather than setting deadlines."

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Secretary will meet the EU chief negotiator in Brussels today. Speaking ahead of her visit, Karen Bradley MP said: "My visit to Brussels today comes as we look ahead to this week's June European Council.

"I am here to reiterate the UK Government's commitment to securing a deal that delivers for all parts of the United Kingdom.

"This includes the government's commitment to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and maintaining the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK as a whole.

"We are confident that we will secure a good deal for the whole of the UK, and we are working towards finalising this with the EU in autumn.

"As we do, we will ensure that our departure from the EU does not do anything to set back the historic progress we have made in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years, and that the Belfast Agreement is protected in all its parts."

Belfast Telegraph

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