Taoiseach denies Brexit crisis now facing a 'rolling cliff edge'

Leo Varadkar speaking this morning. Photo: AP/Olivier Matthys

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has denied the last minute decision to delay the Brexit divorce day until either April 12 or May 22 means the crisis is now facing a "rolling cliff edge" - insisting no further extensions will be allowed, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith in Brussels.

At the end of the EU summit in Brussels, Mr Varadkar confirmed the EU has "unanimously" agreed to give British Prime Minister Theresa May more time to drag the EU-UK deal over the line.

After lengthy late-night talks, the EU agreed to scrap the March 29 Brexit deadline day and replace it with a May 22 deadline on condition the House of Commons passes the deal next week.

However, if it rejects the deal, the new deadline will be cut short to April 11.

This morning, Mr Varadkar said a "rolling cliff edge" Brexit must be avoided as the crisis cannot go on endlessly.

However, asked if the new dual deadline has created this exact problem, the Taoiseach insisted this is not the case.

"I had that thought myself last night; is this a rolling cliff edge? It's not. There won't be further extensions.

The EU has taken control of the timeline which in the past had been set by the UK.

"If they do not [pass the deal] then the UK will leave with no deal on April 12 unless it's possible in that brief interim period for an alternative plan to be agreed," he said.

Mr Varadkar separately ruled out a rumoured lengthy nine-month delay if Britain agrees to run MEP candidates, saying there is understandable "Brexit fatigue" across the EU.

He said Ms May made it "clear" she does not want to run MEP candidates.

Mr Varadkar repeatedly stressed it is now time for Britain to decide if it wants a deal, no deal or a series of votes on what to do next.

Asked if he agrees with French president Emmanuel Macron's prediction this morning that Ms May's deal has just a 5% chance of being backed by MPs next week, the Taoiseach added: "I don't know, I'd just be picking a figure out of the air... Brexit is uncharted territory. I've almost given up speculating on what's going to happen next."

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