Europe cannot help the British government any more and has been “as flexible” as it can be on Brexit, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
British prime minister Theresa May is being pressured to come up with concrete proposals to end the deadlock around Brexit before EU leaders meet again.
Mr Varadkar cast doubt on whether sufficient progress will be made in time for the next meeting of leaders in December as talks around Brexit were described as having “some way to go” yesterday.
He claimed the EU27 has been “as flexible as we can” and that it is now up to the British government to come up with more detail.
EU leaders had initially been expected to approve the next phase of talks — which take in trade and Britain’s relationship with Europe — at this week’s summit.
The painfully slow rate of negotiations between the EU and Britain on the Northern Ireland border, the financial package to be paid by Britain, and citizens’ rights mean heads of government are not happy that enough progress had been made to approve the next step.
Mr Varadkar said he has “a degree of confidence” that enough of a breakthrough will be made on the three key elements before leaders return to Brussels in mid-December.
Ms May had asked her EU counterparts to help come up with a deal that she could sell to the British people. However, Mr Varadkar said Europe has done all it can to help Britain.
“I think, at this stage, the 27 have been as flexible as we can be,” he said. “We’re looking for a little more detail from the UK on what sort of future relationship they want. They say that they want the closest possible relationship with the European Union after Brexit but we’d like to know what that actually means. We don’t really have that as yet.”
While Mr Varadkar said he doesn’t expect any impact on people travelling across the Northern Ireland border and to Britain to live, work, study, or access healthcare, he said there are still question marks over trade.
Speaking after the EU Council summit, Mr Varadkar said: “There is a recommendation that the Common Travel Area should remain so I don’t anticipate any impact on citizens in that sense.
“The question, I suppose, that remains unanswered is what will the impact be on trade, the trade of goods and services, and that still has to be determined.
"But there is a real understanding around the table, I have to say, from the Lithuanian president sitting beside me to the Luxembourg prime minister across from me, that Ireland is unique — is in a very difficult transition — that this is not a problem of our creating and I do think that there will be flexibility for us.”
Speaking also attending part of the summit, Ms May said both sides are clear that there should be no hard border between Ireland and the North.
At the end of the two-day summit, European Council president Donald Tusk moved to ease the impression that no progress has been made in Brexit talks.
“My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated,” h4e said.
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