Belfast Telegraph

Time running out for UK to reach withdrawal agreement by October – Varadkar

The future of the Irish border is one of the most vexed issues outstanding in the Brexit negotiations.

The Taoiseach has warned time is running out for Britain to seal a withdrawal agreement with the EU by October.

Leo Varadkar travels to Brussels on Thursday for a meeting of leaders at the European Council and said preparations for all outcomes were intensifying in Ireland.

The future of the Irish border is one of the most vexed issues outstanding in the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Varadkar said: “Time is running out for the Withdrawal Agreement to be concluded satisfactorily by the October European Council.

“I expect EU leaders to send a strong message to the UK that negotiations with the taskforce need to intensify.

“The lack of progress in the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement has been very disappointing.

“We still need to see detailed proposals from the UK on how it intends to deliver on the clear commitments it made in December and March.”

Mr Varadkar’s views have been echoed by Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who told his parliament in Copenhagen: “It is worrying, given that it is now two years since we had a British referendum.”

The British Government has vowed there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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(PA Graphics)

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said the Government’s plan for ensuring “frictionless” arrangements will be proposed next month.

A backstop option, agreed in principle between the EU and UK, has been interpreted by Europe to mean Northern Ireland will stay in the bloc’s Customs Union if no other deal is reached.

The British Government is adamant it will not accept any proposal which draws a distinction between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Varadkar added: “Ireland is grateful to our EU partners for their ongoing strong support.

Our preparations and contingency planning continue in Ireland and are intensifying for all outcomes Leo Varadkar

“As (European Commission) President (Jean-Claude) Juncker and (European Council) President (Donald) Tusk confirmed to me last week, if we don’t get agreement on a backstop, it won’t be possible to finalise the withdrawal agreement as a whole, including the transition arrangements.

“The European Council has stated on repeated occasions that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

“Meanwhile, our preparations and contingency planning continue in Ireland and are intensifying for all outcomes.”

The Taoiseach and his EU counterparts will also discuss how best to manage mass inflows of migration, which is likely to be another significant issue at the summit, along with the future development of the Eurozone, the EU budget and trade relations with the US.

Other topics include relations with Russia, security and defence, digital innovation, jobs, growth and competitiveness.

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