Leo Varadkar’s admission that Brexit talks on a solution for the North’s border could run as late as October have prompted concerns about Ireland’s weakened negotiating position.
The Taoiseach is in Brussels for a leaders summit and admitted that any resolution on agreeing a frictionless border for the North could be months away.
He insists there will be no withdrawal deal for Britain unless the so-called backstop on the North is agreed. However, the later deadline means Ireland’s leverage on the border is declining, Fianna Fáil claim.
Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly said our position was now “weakened”.
“Things are going from bad to worse this week for Ireland on Brexit,” he said.
“The whole purpose of structuring the Brexit talks in two phases was to ensure agreement was reached in phase one on several critical issues, including the Northern Ireland border.”
An initial agreement was reached in December to avoid a hard border. Mr Varadkar held a brief meeting with Theresa May last night, at which the British prime minister reassured the Taoiseach of her commitment to the December agreement, including the backstop.
Earlier, Mr Varadkar said it could be October before a compromise is made, when the final Brexit withdrawal terms are needed.
Attempts were made to row back on his admission last night, with government figures suggesting most or “95%” of the backstop could be agreed by June. However, with the focus on Britain’s transition deal and future trade, the fear is the Irish question will be left behind.
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