Ireland will not stand in the way of Britain extending the Brexit March divorce date amid growing indications that Downing Street is considering pushing out the deadline, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has confirmed.
Mr Coveney said this country will not be opposed to any article 50 extension if it helps to ensure a Brexit with less than a week to go before next Tuesday's Westminster vote on the existing deal.
Mr Coveney said the decision is up to London. That was after the Daily Telegraph reported that Britain was giving consideration to seeking an extension, a view echoed by British digital minister Margot James and London employers' group London First.
However, while saying any extension will only be possible if a clear plan on how to use the extra time is revealed, Mr Coveney confirmed Ireland will not stand in the way of any potential extension if it is agreed by Britain and the EU.
"First of all, everybody loses in a no-deal Brexit scenario. Britain, Ireland and many other EU countries as well. We want to avoid that, and that is why for two years there were very intensive negotiations in Brussels to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
"We want to continue to advocate for that deal, and we want to provide where possible the reassurances and clarifications that may be needed in Westminster to get this deal ratified.
"But of course because of the complications around the ratification of that deal, we have to plan for and anticipate the challenges of a no-deal Brexit which will be considerable, and nobody should under-estimate that.
"If it is the case that at some point in the future in the weeks ahead that the British government seeks an extension of article 50, then that's obviously something that will need to get consideration at an EU level, but certainly from an Irish perspective if such an ask happens and is justified we won't be standing in the way of that.
"But that is really a matter for the British government to make decisions on," Mr Coveney said.
At the same press conference after a Global Ireland two day conference in Dublin Castle, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he did not want to think about "the possibility of extending article 50 here and now" as it would "devalue" ongoing efforts to pass the existing Brexit deal.
However, he added that the final outcome of Brexit is still "up in the air", and warned a no-deal crash out Brexit is "still an option, despite the serious damage this would cause on both [British and EU] sides".
Earlier the Daily Telegraph said Downing Street is putting out "feelers" to the EU over whether the March 29 Brexit divorce date could potentially be extended given the ongoing Brexit stand-off.
The newspaper, which is seen as being traditionally close to the Conservatives party, said three separate EU sources told it British officials have been "putting out feelers" and "testing the waters" on extending article 50.
London First - which represents more than 200 of London's biggest employers - insisted Brexit must be delayed if Ms May loses or postpones the Brexit deal Westminster vote next Tuesday, a view echoed by British digital minister Margot James.
However, British Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay downplayed the possibility of the delay, saying Downing Street has not changed its position.