Belfast Telegraph

Tusk meets with Varadkar ahead of summit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) greets European Council President Donald Tusk in Dublin
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) greets European Council President Donald Tusk in Dublin

By Aoife Moore

Donald Tusk has expressed EU solidarity with Ireland amid Brexit talks in Dublin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed the European Council president in front of the media, but neither of the men made any reply when questioned by journalists. When asked if Monday's Westminster news posed a problem, Mr Tusk did not reply but shrugged.

The Dublin meeting was to consider any requests from the UK to delay Brexit, and other issues on the EU agenda, ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels later this week.

A joint statement after the meeting said they discussed the current state of play regarding Brexit.

"President Tusk expressed the strong and ongoing solidarity with Ireland of the European Council and European leaders," the statement read.

"They agreed that we must now see what proposals emerge from London in advance of the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Meanwhile, preparations continue in Ireland and across the European Union for a no-deal scenario, which would have serious consequences for all concerned."

Amid the brinksmanship that is now in play as the clock ticks down to March 29 one of the EU's most influential leaders, Germany's Angela Merkel, pledged she would fight until the "last minute" to secure an orderly Brexit.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Simon Coveney held a series of meetings in Brussels with key figures, including his UK counterpart David Lidington.

Mr Coveney said that there was a "willingness" to grant an extension on the part of the EU but insisted there must be persuasive detail and a plan from London in order to secure it.

"What I can tell you from an EU perspective - there is a lot of a concern amongst EU member states and partners about a long extension of Article 50," he said.

There are "risks" associated with a lengthy delay that means people will need to be convinced to allow the "disruptive effect" of Brexit to continue for another nine months or longer, he added.

EU leaders will need to be convinced that a substantial push back to the day Britain is due to exit would see the current impasse end. He said a "detailed plan of action" is needed to help shore up European support for a long delay.

"The EU do not want to grant a request for the UK that brings us back to the same point that we are at today in three months, six months, nine months time, having wasted a lot more time," he said.

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