Leo Varadkar: No-deal Brexit plans ‘prudent’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended planning for a no-deal Brexit and said it is up to Britain to commit to an agreement.

Visiting Bavaria, Germany, yesterday, he said the Government wanted to ensure there was no new hard border in Ireland but also that relations with Britain remained strong after Brexit.

Westminster is set to vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement later this month.

The expectation is that British prime minister Theresa May could lose the vote. This has prompted fears that Britain may crash out of the European Union without any deal in a chaotic manner.

Mr Varadkar yesterday addressed a conference of the CSU, a sister party of the ruling CDU party.

He said: “For the first time an EU member state is leaving. So we need to get it right. Peace on our island was born out of the European ideal, by communities coming together, not growing apart.”

Mr Varadkar told German politicians that Ireland would defend the Good Friday Agreement.

“Despite the ever-shifting sands on the trek towards a settled Brexit destination, two things have stayed constant,” he said. “The first is European support for Irish concerns and safeguarding peace on our island. The second is our understanding of what must be defended.”

Mr Varadkar also praised German chancellor Angela Merkel, outgoing leader of the CDU, saying she had stood up and defended European values at a difficult time. He said the Brexit process had been “traumatic” at times but had “not proven fatal to the European family”.

Speaking to reporters earlier, he stressed that it was Britain which was threatening a no-deal.

“I still expect that we will have a deal in the next couple of weeks but it is still prudent that as every day passes, we intensify our preparations for a no-deal,” he said. “That is very much what Ireland is doing.

“We shouldn’t forget that Ireland isn’t threatening a no-deal and Europe isn’t threatening a no-deal and Germany isn’t threatening a no-deal. It is always in the power of the United Kingdom to ensure that there is a deal to ratify the agreement we have reached at Government level, or alternatively by seeking an extension of Article 50.”

Mr Varadkar outlined how Ireland and Germany, after Brexit, wanted to build a strong economic and security partnership with Britain.

“In many ways, that is in their hands,” he said. “It is for them to decide what they want that new relationship to look like. That has been part of the problem for the last two and a half years, the division in the UK and uncertainty in the UK as to what they want the new relationship to look like.”

Elsewhere, a senior PSNI figure has dismissed reports that up to 1,000 extra police from England and Scotland could be drafted into the North this year to counter any outbreak of violence over Brexit. It was reported the police would be trained if there is no deal and a possibility of a new border.

Such additional police from outside Ireland would likely prompt objections and protests, but PSNI assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton said he did not see the need for reinforcements.

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