Taoiseach: Ireland is ‘flexible’ over Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted Ireland is being “flexible” in its attempts to help Britain out of a Brexit crisis “of its own creation” with just one week to go before a crucial House of Commons vote on the existing EU deal.

Mr Varadkar made the comments ahead of an informal meeting of the Cabinet at Farmleigh House last night to discuss the latest Brexit developments.

Speaking to reporters alongside Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said that while he is willing to offer further “clarifications and assurances” on the backstop, Ireland has already made significant attempts to resolve the issue.

Asked about what will happen next and if Ireland is prepared to offer any further concessions to help British prime minister Theresa May, the Taoiseach said: “Ireland has been very flexible and very reasonable all along to help the UK deal with problems that are largely of their own creation. I am happy to offer further clarifications and assurances to help them get it over the line.”

Mr Varadkar’s comments come just one week before Ms May will ask the House of Commons to vote next Tuesday on whether to back the EU deal or to reject it.

If, as is widely expected, the deal is rejected, MPs will be asked the following day to vote to rule out a no-deal, crash-out Brexit, with any vote ruling out this possibility leading to a third vote on Thursday week on whether to extend the EU-UK March 29 divorce date.

The permutations are understood to have been discussed in depth by ministers here during a rare informal meeting of Cabinet at Farmleigh House last night.

The Irish Examiner understands the meeting, which was chaired by Mr Varadkar and involved detailed briefings from Tánaiste Simon Coveney, focused on informing all ministers of the latest developments in Ireland’s Brexit preparedness and events in Britain in recent days.

The meeting was also used to emphasise to ministers the need to press home Ireland’s message during St Patrick’s Day visits abroad that it is not leaving the EU and will be the only English-speaking member of the political bloc.

Mr Coveney, who is due to bring a more detailed Brexit memo to the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning, will also take part in a special London event later this week focusing on the historical and cultural connections between Ireland and Britain which will be attended by stars from the arts, sports, academia, media, and business.

Meanwhile, the British government’s attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, will travel to Brussels today to meet with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, over the backstop and other matters.

It is expected that Mr Cox will also discuss the feasibility and potential length of any proposed Brexit extension, should the House of Commons seek it in a possible vote on Thursday week.

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