Brexit extension ‘likely’ as EU urged to keep up pressure

Fianna Fáil has said it is “quite likely” British prime minister Theresa May will eventually seek an extension to the March 2019 Brexit deadline, but has argued that now may not be the right time for the EU to “take the pressure off” on striking a deal.

The party’s Brexit spokeswoman, Lisa Chambers, made the prediction after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney suggested such an offer may be accepted by the EU.

Speaking to reporters in Bucharest, Romania, on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said although it is a “hypothetical” situation, he believes it would be “preferable” to seek an extension to the March deadline than face a no-deal exit from the EU.

The view was later repeated in Dublin by Mr Coveney, who said while London must ultimately make the offer, it is likely to be acceptable to the EU if it is needed in the coming months.

Asked about the potential development last night, Ms Chambers told the Irish Examiner she has believed for several months it is “quite likely” Britain will request more time to resolve the crisis.

However, despite the suggestion being welcomed in some quarters, she said it may not be in Ireland or the EU’s interests to accept or push for the offer at this stage, given the growing calls for a second Brexit vote in Britain.

“I think it’s quite likely an extension will happen if it is sought — I’ve said that for a number of months — but I don’t think the EU should take the pressure off just yet,” said Ms Chambers.

“There are issues in Britain right now and I don’t know if it would be in Ireland’s interests at the moment.”

Ms Chambers was speaking after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier rejected Ms May’s latest Brexit resolution plan on Thursday amid fresh fears a hard Brexit may become reality.

Citing Ms May’s focus on Britain continuing to have control of customs and tariffs under a proposed deal, Mr Barnier used Ms May’s own quote to say the EU cannot allow an outside force to control its “money, customs, and laws”.

Ms Chambers said while the rejection was expected, its importance should not be underplayed by the Government.

Noting the fact there has been little Government response to what happened, Ms Chambers said it would be “dangerous” to “over-rely” on Mr Barnier and EU officials to resolve the matter.

“The EU may not ultimately deliver everything Ireland needs. In terms of member states’ interests, we’re not the only show in town,” she said.

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