British PM could offer fresh Brexit deal today

There are fresh hopes of a breakthrough in the Brexit deadlock as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested he could receive an amended deal from British Prime Minister Theresa May as early as today.

Despite warnings from unionists that Ireland’s hardened stance on a guarantee for a frictionless border is “dangerous”, Mr Varadkar said there is “solidarity” from EU states on the issue.

After a meeting in Dublin with Mr Varadkar last night, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said a “good deal” on the border is essential and that “firm commitment” is needed from Ms May.

The support from Mr Rutte comes after a flurry of phonecalls yesterday over the latest Brexit impasse, caused after the DUP this week forced Britain to drop out of a deal.

It had all been but agreed that regulations, in Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, of the border would be aligned, thus avoiding a hard border. This deal would likely have allowed talks to move on to trade.

Mr Varadkar revealed details of his call with Ms May yesterday. He said he was “willing to consider” changes to the deal as long as any new language is “consistent” with the original terms.

The idea of new text in a deal was discussed, he confirmed , and he had an “open mind”. Ms May could come back to him as early as today, he told a press conference. “If she wants to come back to us with some text tonight or tomorrow, I expressed my willingness to consider that,” said Mr Varadkar.

“But I also said that when it comes to the substance or the meaning, I can’t depart from that.”

Mr Varadkar warned of the consequences of endangering the peace process as well as Irish-Anglo relations.

“I wouldn’t like to be the Taoiseach and I know she wouldn’t like to be the prime minister that began the slow unravelling of all the progress that has been made in the last 20 years.”

Mr Rutte said if there is no deal on this or the other two two main issues of citizenship and Britain’s exit bill, then negotiations would have to move into January.

Mr Varadkar thanked EU members for their “unity” and “solidarity” on the issue last night.

The EU and Britain have just days to patch up the deal before an EU summit next week otherwise talks will spill over into January, thus threatening a no-deal outcome.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds accused Mr Varadkar yesterday and the Irish Government of playing a “dangerous game” and of increasing the risk of a no-deal scenario.

Earlier, Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, warned her DUP counterpart, Arlene Foster, to not speak on behalf of the people of the North.

After a phone conversation with Ms May, Ms O’Neill said: “I made it clear to the British prime minister that the DUP do not speak for the majority of the people of the North.”

Ms O’Neill also made it clear that most people in the June 2016 Brexit referendum voted to remain in the EU.

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