The Taoiseach is “not contemplating” a confidence and supply deal with Sinn Féin or other parties if a new agreement cannot be reached with Fianna Fáil.
As speculation mounts that an election could soon be called, Leo Varadkar said it is “always prudent to be ready for all eventualities” but his party wants to remain in power until 2020.
Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in, which continues in Galway today, Mr Varadkar said: “Just as we are preparing for a no-deal Brexit even though we think that’s unlikely to happen, obviously we have to be ready for a general election were that to occur.”
Along with TDs, senators and MEPs, non-elected members of the party who have been selected to run in the next general election were invited to the two-day meeting in Salthill, adding to the speculation that Fine Gael is getting election-ready.
“We will have those other selection conventions done in the next couple of weeks,” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Varadkar wrote to Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin last week in a bid to start talks around the extension of the confidence and supply agreement. However, Mr Martin has insisted the negotiations will not happen until after the Budget.
Asked if he would look to other parties to remain on in power if he cannot hammer out a new deal with Fianna Fáil, Mr Varadkar said: “I haven’t actually given that thought yet. I am not contemplating that. What we have asked is for Fianna Fáil to come to the table and talk about renewing the confidence and supply agreement that we have.
“I want to take away the political instability that exists at the moment, I want to take away and remove the uncertainty about when the next election will be held and that’s why I was very transparent about it — wrote the letter, sent it to Micheál Martin, published it five days later.
“That sets out what we are looking for which is an agreed election date in the summer of 2020, thus giving us political stability and removing an uncertainty between now and Brexit actually happening.”
The Taoiseach also remained firm on the issue of the border and protecting the backstop in Brexit talks amid reports that a softening of the deal with Britain may now be on the table.
It had been reported that the UK and Germany are prepared to drop key demands in relation to the future of trade relations as part of a Brexit deal.
Mr Varadkar said there can be no compromise on the backstop agreement to prevent a hard border.
“We need the assurance that there won’t be a hard border on the island of Ireland,” he said. “We have always been flexible on the detail and the language and that’s important, but the principle stands and we can’t compromise on that.”