Leo Varadkar won’t meet party leaders over Brexit approach

The Taoiseach has refused to meet opposition leaders to formulate a united approach ahead of Brexit talks.

Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil that Ireland will not have to use its veto to block any return to a hard border with Northern Ireland, claiming the country has the full support of our European partners.

“I am very confident that the European Council will operate by consensus and there will be no need to use or threaten to use a veto because we have and will continue to have the support of our European colleagues on the issue of the Border.”

European heads are due to meet in Brussels next month, where it is hoped enough progress will be made in Brexit negotiations to allow them to press ahead with the second phase of talks.

The EU Council was unable to sign off on this when they met in October as little progress had been made around the border, the UK’s divorce settlement and citizens rights.

However, a request by Labour leader Brendan Howlin that Mr Varadkar meet the heads of political parties to decide on a “collective, joined-up and manifestly united effort on this vital issue for Ireland” was shot down.

Mr Howlin said: “At this juncture, there is a need for collective political effort. For months, I have asked that the Taoiseach brief opposition leaders in detail in advance of EU Council meetings and I reiterate that request today.

“When approaching a meeting as crucial as this one, deputies of all parties and none should come together to show Britain and the EU 27 that we stand united together in the interests of our nation.”

However, the Taoiseach said such a meeting would be a “major distraction from the job” and would not be practical. He said there would be statements in the the Dáil prior to the European Council meeting as is the usual protocol.

However, Mr Howlin protested that this “is not the way to do it” as “this is not a normal situation”.

The Taoiseach said he had committed to meeting party leaders “when we get to a decision point”.

“The situation changes on a daily basis and it is not practical to have a meeting every day or two on the issue. That would be a major distraction from the job we are doing on behalf of Ireland regarding Brexit and dealing with other governments,” Mr Varadkar said.

“However, I will meet with party leaders when we get to the point where a decision has to be made and I have a specific request to make of them regarding their political groupings,” he said.

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