Taoiseach 'confident' European Council will 'operate by consensus' over border

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he does not think Ireland will need to use its veto at the crucial Brexit summit in Brussels next month.

The Republic's government has an option of playing an ace card to block progress in crunch negotiations on the UK's exit from the European Union if it determines there is insufficient certainty on the future of the Irish border.

"The solidarity that exists for Ireland and behind our specific issues in relation to avoiding a hard border remains very strong," he said.

"So I'm very confident that the European Council will operate by consensus.

"There will be no need to use or threaten a veto because we do and continue to have the support of our European colleagues when it comes to the issue of the border."

The Taoiseach told the Dail parliament in Dublin that his Government was in daily contact with the taskforce set up by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

"Things are changing on a daily basis and are rapidly evolving," Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach said a lot of progress was being made on the financial settlement the UK would be hit with amid reports of a bill running to €45-55bn.

In the brief Q&A on the Brexit issue in the Dail parliament Labour party leader Brendan Howlin rebuked Tory MP Iain Duncan-Smith for suggesting that concerns in Ireland about the border were influenced by a potential presidential election in Ireland.

The president of Ireland does not have an executive or policy role. He or she exercises formal powers on the advice of the Government.

The are limited instances where the Republic's head of state has an absolute discretion, including where he or she could refuse to dissolve the Dail parliament if the Taoiseach is leading a minority government, a prospect which reared its head only this week. The prerogative has never been used.

Michael D Higgins is the current president. An election is possible in November when his seven year term is up.

Mr Howlin said the former Tory leader's assessment of current Irish politics was ridiculous.

The Taoiseach also told the Dail that he would honour a commitment to meet party leaders when a decision has been made on the Brexit negotiations in the middle of next month.

"We are not at that decision point yet. The situation does change on a daily basis," he said.

Neale Richmond, Fine Gael EU affairs spokesman, told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "We have yet to see from the UK Government any sufficient or significant level of detail when it comes to proposals (on the border).

"We have a very warm speech in Florence from Prime Minister May and we have seen a position paper, but neither of these things had the specific detail that meets what the Irish Government and the European negotiating team believe represents sufficient progress.

"We don't believe there is a technological solution to the Irish border because if you create roving customs checkpoints or put in electronic tagging, they will become legitimate targets to dissident paramilitaries that are still active, and that is stated by both the police forces in the Republic ... and in Northern Ireland."

Mr Richmond warned against additional administrative burdens at the frontier, saying: "Thirty thousand people cross the border every day for educational reasons, for commercial reasons, for personal reasons.

"We have nearly 275 border crossings along a frontier of just 300 miles, as opposed to 20-25 crossings at the height of the Troubles.

"We believe a new customs arrangement between the UK and EU would allow this to be resolved."


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