Taoiseach seeks alternative Brexit plan from UK

The Taoiseach has admitted he is “not optimistic” about a Brexit deal being struck ahead of a crucial EU summit next month.

Taoiseach seeks alternative Brexit plan from UK

The Taoiseach has admitted he is “not optimistic” about a Brexit deal being struck ahead of a crucial EU summit next month.

Leo Varadkar also called on the British government to to set out its alternative Brexit plans in writing by the first week in October.

His comments came as Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned time was “running out” and that an extension would be preferable for talks as opposed to Britain crashing out of the EU.

With less than five weeks until the deadline for a UK-EU agreement, no new formal deal for an orderly Brexit has been proposed by British prime minister Boris Johnson.

The remarks from Government suggest an extension or a disorderly Brexit are now the most likely outcomes as the deadline draws nearer.

Speaking in Los Angeles, Mr Varadkar said: “Based on what has happened in the last month or two, I’m not particularly optimistic. But there is still time, albeit time running short.

“And if we are going to be in a position to agree something at the EU summit on October 17 and 18, we are really going to need to work that up in the week or two before it.

“So I think what would be really helpful would be proposals in writing from the UK in the first week in October and once they provide a workable and legally-binding solution to the problem, and that is giving us the assurance there will be no hard border north and south, that the all-island economy can continue to operate and north-south cooperation can continue as envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement, that is the commitment given to us by the British government back in December 2017.

“Prime minister Johnson has said he is going to honour that. But we need to see how that will be done in writing.”

With the UK parliament engulfed in chaos and with EU figures also awaiting any tabling of an alternative agreement, concerns are mounting of a crash Brexit that could damage Ireland.

Speaking after a meeting yesterday with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, Mr Coveney noted the clock was ticking, but he also flagged the chance of extending out negotiations.

Despite suggestions from London of progress towards a fresh deal, Mr Coveney said that there were still “significant gaps” between both sides.

“The clear message that I would have got from Mr Barnier today was that his team and he are available 24/7 to negotiate towards trying to get a deal done. But that has to be on the basis of a serious proposal coming forward from the UK side. That hasn’t happened yet.

“Until there is a serious proposal in writing that can be the basis for negotiation, then the gaps that are wide at the moment will remain. Time is running out. We need to move this process on.”

Asked if member states would be agreeable to a possible extension to the Brexit talks, which would likely be decided at the EU, Mr Coveney said: “If it is not possible to [do] that, the focus will shift on to whether or not an extension is appropriate. From an Irish perspective, we of course think an extension is preferable to no-deal, but I think there would need to be good reason behind that ask for an extension.”

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