Backstop deal 'or nothing': Taoiseach lays down marker to May ahead of EU Brexit meeting

Backstop deal 'or nothing': Taoiseach lays down marker to May ahead of EU Brexit meeting
Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar are due to meet today.

Latest: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has thrown down a marker to British prime minister Theresa May by warning her there will be a Northern Ireland Brexit backstop deal "or nothing".

Mr Varadkar made the comments during a walk-through photocall in Brussels alongside European Council president Donald Tusk.

The Taoiseach is meeting Mr Tusk, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and outspoken MEP Guy Verhofstadt today to discuss the growing Brexit crisis.

And just two weeks away from the make-or-break October EU summit and as Ms May finishes her Conservatives party conference, Mr Varadkar made it clear this morning he will not back down on the border issue.

Asked if he believes there will still be a backstop deal in light of Mrs May, Boris Johnson and DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mr Varadkar paused before saying:

"There certainly will... Or nothing."

Asked the same question Mr Tusk added:

"The Taoiseach is an optimist," before shrugging his shoulders and saying "we'll see after the meeting."

Mr Varadkar is meeting Mr Tusk at a private working lunch today before both officials give statements this afternoon.

The Taoiseach said in a statement last night "time is running out" for Britain to put forward a coherent plan for a Brexit deal.

Earlier: Taoiseach warns May 'time is running out' on securing Brexit deal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned British prime minister Theresa May that "time is running out" on securing a Brexit deal just two weeks out from the crunch October EU summit.

Speaking before holding a series of meetings in Brussels today with European Council president Donald Tusk and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Varadkar said London must produce a coherent plan immediately if it wants to pull Brexit back from the brink of disaster.

Backstop deal 'or nothing': Taoiseach lays down marker to May ahead of EU Brexit meeting

"The immediate focus of the Irish Government is on the pressing need for agreement on a withdrawal agreement, with an operational and legally-binding backstop.

"The withdrawal agreement must ensure that, no matter what the outcome of negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and UK, a hard border on the island of Ireland will be avoided.

"This is critically important to reinforce the stability brought about by the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

"The negotiations are entering a critical phase, and time is running out. But I believe that an agreement is possible, with the right political will and focus on all sides," the Taoiseach said.

Today's Brussels meetings - which will also include a private discussion with the outspoken chair of the European Parliament's Brexit steering group team, MEP Guy Verhofstadt - come as fears continue to grow over a potential crash-out no deal Brexit.

Such a situation would place immense pressure on Ireland and whether a hard border would return between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

This is why Mr Varadkar, Tanaiste Simon Coveney and other senior Government officials are insistent Britain provides shores up last December's backstop deal, potentially with a new alternative legal text wording, as soon as possible and before the now likely November EU summit.

Today's Brussels meetings also take place as the Conservatives annual conference concludes in Birmingham, where British prime minister Theresa May has attempted to portray a hardline Brexit stance, and as MP Boris Johnson and DUP leader Arlene Foster have warned of "blood red" lines in the talks.

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