Theresa May hoping to make new Irish border offer by Friday, Leo Varadkar says
The PM is under intense pressure from business for certainty by Christmas over the transition to a new UK/EU relationship.
Theresa May is preparing to make a fresh Brexit offer on the Irish border by Friday to try and break the logjam in negotiations amid warnings she may have to wait until the New Year for trade talks, the Irish prime minister has said.
With the clock ticking to the December 14 summit of the European Council which must decide whether sufficient progress has been made on the UK’s divorce deal to clear the way for talks on the future relationship, there was no sign of a breakthrough on the crucial issue of the Irish border.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s office characterised a phone-call with Mrs May as a “stock-taking” exercise, and later he made clear he would not back down on his position that Dublin’s approval for the opening of the second phase of talks is dependent on agreement on the border.
But he said he discussed with the Prime Minister the idea of Britain amending its offer to win over the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which scuppered a proposed deal on Monday.
With Mrs May under intense pressure from business for certainty by Christmas over the transition to a new UK/EU relationship, Mr Varadkar said she is hoping to return with a new formal written offer “tonight and tomorrow”.
The Irish PM said he would consider any new proposal, but added: “Ultimately it is up to them to come back to us, given the events that happened on Monday.
“And having consulted with people in London, she wants to come back to us with some text tonight and tomorrow.”
After talks with Dutch PM Mark Rutte in Dublin, he said his “absolute red line” that Brexit should not create a hard Irish border remains.
And earlier he told the Irish Dail: “We want to move to phase two but if it is not possible to move to phase two next week because of the problems that have arisen, well then we can pick it up of course in the New Year.”
Mr Rutte made clear the EU would not compromise and allow the Irish border to kicked down the road to phase two of the talks, even under threat of Britain crashing out with no deal or divorce negotiations dragging on to 2018.
“You cannot just say because we need a soft Brexit that we will somehow compromise on some of the fundamentals on the three issues now on the table – citizens’ rights, the exit bill, the border,” he said.
“On each of three issues these sufficient progress needs to be established and if somehow your scenario would play out and somewhere along the line Britain would opt for a hard Brexit all by itself, the impact on the United Kingdom would again be infinitely bigger than on us.”
He added: “We will not loosen our position.
“We will stay very firm.”