Varadkar on Britain's request to extend Brexit: 'We want to avoid rolling extensions'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Britain's request to extend Brexit has to be considered but rolling extensions are not tolerable.

Varadkar on Britain's request to extend Brexit: 'We want to avoid rolling extensions'

By Daniel McConnell, Eoin English and David Raleigh

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Britain's request to extend Brexit has to be considered but rolling extensions are not tolerable.

“We also want to avoid rolling extensions, where there’s an extension every couple of weeks or every couple of months.

"That just adds to the uncertainty for citizens, businesses, and farmers,” he said.

Speaking in Limerick, the Taoiseach said perhaps a longer extension might make more sense, but that is something “I’ll have to talk about with other heads of government and also Prime Minister May - we’ll make a decision though next Wednesday.”

Asked about EU president Donald Tusk’s flexible extension suggestion, he said:

All these things are possible and that’s what we are going to have to decide on next Wednesday. We will listen to Prime Minister May’s contribution, and we’ll talk among ourselves and come up with a solution.

His comments come as senior ministers and officials expressed their strong relief at the lack of any overt pressure from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to reveal their plan to deal with the return of a hard border in the event of a no deal.

"There was a widespread sense of relief in Government Buildings. People were very nervous before she came into town, but she hit all the right notes.

"Some people thought Leo was taking a big risk bringing her in," said one senior minister.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney is warning that the solutions for a no-deal scenario will actually “be quite impactful and very negative” for the functioning of an all-island economy:

“Even though we would do everything we can do to protect the peace process and we, of course, want to prevent that kind of scenario happening which is why if we need more time, so be it."

We don’t have a signed-off agreed document with the European Commission on that at this stage.

"But we have made it very clear, and the EU has made it clear also that there are twin obligations here on the EU as well as on Ireland,” he added.

In relation to the time extension request from Theresa May, he said:

“From an Irish perspective, we have always said an extension is far preferable than a crash-out no-deal Brexit.

"What we would like to see is the British Prime Minister working with the Labour party to bring proposals that can get majority support in Westminster - that hasn’t been possible yet – hopefully it will be possible this week if not in the next number of weeks."

British Prime Minister Theresa May.
British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“I think we are looking at an extension of time and I think everybody will be quite demanding on the UK, in terms of how that extra time gets used, so we can try and bring an end to this first phase,” he added.

Mr Coveney pointed to the commitment to protecting the Peace Process given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin on Thursday:

We’ve got to protect a peace process on this island and I think Chancellor Merkel yesterday was quite emotive and quite firm in relation to this being an EU responsibility as well as an Irish responsibility, as well as a British government responsibility.

“The second obligation we have is to protect the integrity of the single market that we are very much part of and I have said very clearly in the last 10 days that this Government will not allow a situation where Ireland gets dragged out of the single market by a UK crashing out of the EU,” he added.

Simon Coveney.
Simon Coveney.

“But doing the two of those things together is quite a difficult task because on one level they are contradictory,” he warned.

The Government will find a way of doing that if we have to that prevents physical border infrastructure anywhere near the border and it is working out the technicalities of how we can do that with the European Commission, he said.

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