Taoiseach: All EU nations preparing for a 'no deal' Brexit scenario

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will not let the United Kingdom destroy the European Union during Brexit.

Speaking in Brussels at the conclusion of the EU Summit, Mr Varadkar told reporters that no progress in any way has been made on the Irish backstop issue since March.

As a result, all States will now step up preparations for a 'no deal' scenario, given the lack of progress made, Mr Varadkar said.

He made it clear that Ireland and the EU are not willing to concede any ground which would allow the UK cherry pick which parts of the EU it would like to remain part of once Brexit occurs next March.

The Taoiseach and British Prime Minister Theresa May held a 30-minute meeting during which Mrs May outlined some details of a White Paper she will be publishing next month on the future relationship she expects to have with the EU post Brexit.

“Think what would be involved, it would involve the UK having the benefit of one of the four freedoms which is access to free market for goods but not for services or capital, which would be important for the financial services sector, and not free movement of labour,” he said.

“If that principle was to be conceded, I am sure there would be right wing and eurosceptic populist parties in every second country in Europe saying 'we want the same deal. We want two freedoms, we want three and a half, we want one',” he added.

“That would really be the beginning of the end of the single market. We really regret that the UK has decided to leave the European Union, we are not going to let them destroy the European Union,” he said.

He said Ireland will resist any attempts by the British to initiate any side deals, adding the talks have to be done through the EU block of 27 countries.

Mr Varadkar confirmed that he is to bring details of those contingency plans to Cabinet in 10 days time, but insisted he is not willing to accept anything that would lead to the return of a hard border with Northern Ireland.

“I want to emphasise this is the government applying a precautionary principle for a scenario we don't think is going to happen. But it is still prudent to plan for a worst case scenario,” he said.

“That is something we are simply not contemplating and everyone understands here in Brussels and in London.

"It is not being planned for, and we wont agree to anything that gives rise to a hard border on our island. And if we do end up in a no deal scenario then we will have to talk to our EU partners about that.

"But bare in mind, such a scenario would only arise if the UK decided to diverge in terms of regulation of customs arrangements. So they would be the ones causing it,” he added.

Mr Varadkar also responded to cricitisms of him by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this morning about talk of an early election.

“Not withstanding Micheál Martin’s challenge, I won’t be calling a general election, that’s not my intention at all. I think the country’s on the right track,” he said.

He accused Fianna Fáil of bringing the government's viability into question.

“But we have seen Fianna Fáil displaying mixed messages in the past number of weeks, despite Micheál Martin’s claims to the contrary.

"Darragh O’Brien, their housing spokesman was on the record last month openly speculating about voting for a motion of no confidence in Minister Murphy. Only last week in the Dáil, Micheál Martin was talking about not supporting if we didn’t increase capitation grants for schools.

“Now I want to increase capitation grants for schools if we can afford to do so, but that is not one of the things contained in the confidence and supply agreement, so they’re making budgetary demands that are not in the agreement,” he added.

Asked why then he had brought forward six selection conventions from September to July, he said: “Same reasons as we’re preparing for the unlikely event of a no deal Brexit. It’s the principle of the Scouts, it’s always better to be prepared.”

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