Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said an agreement over British prime minister Boris Johnson's alternative Brexit plan should be ready by next Friday for leaders to assess.
Speaking at Fine Gael's presidential dinner in Dublin tonight, Mr Varadkar also confirmed there will not be universal welfare payment increases or tax cuts in next week's budget.
Next Friday was a realistic deadline, he said, for any final deal to be assessed by member states ahead of an EU summit on October 17 and 18.
“It is not the case that you can negotiate international treaties at a council meeting in Brussels. I think Friday is a reasonable deadline. But if an extra 24 or 48 hours is needed, we are not going to give up on a deal because of that."
“I can’t speak for other countries, but my general sense is that across the European Union people accept that an extension would be better than no deal.
“But an extension would only really be agreed if there is a realistic prospect of a deal during that extension period.
Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar confirms there will not be universal social welfare increases or across the board tax cuts in next Tuesday’s #budget. See @irishexaminer for more now #iestaff pic.twitter.com/Z8vmKN8Vga— Juno McEnroe (@Junomaco) October 5, 2019
“So I think, as the incoming president of the commission Ursula von der Leyen said, everyone is open to consider an extension to avoid no deal but not without a good reason.”
He said it was not for him to set a deadline, but he highlighted that member states would need time to examine the content of any deal ahead of the summit.
“I think a deal is still possible,” he said.
“It is possible at the European Council summit in two weeks’ time but the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn’t feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations.
“But there is plenty of time for the UK Government to put forward further proposals and we are in the process of trying to arrange a meeting between me and Prime Minister Johnson next week.
“We have a European Summit on the 17 and 18 of October and it’s not reasonable to expect 27 or 28 heads of government to sign off on something that they only see the night before or two days before.”
He said EU leaders could not amend legal texts for a treaty at 3am or 5am at a summit.
The Taoiseach also confirmed that he wants a meeting with Mr Johnson next week.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar confirmed elements of the budget for welfare claimants and workers.
Aside from any electortal considerations, we have to do what is right for the country. In the past three budgets, we have been able to reduce income tax and USC and increase pensions and welfare. That's been worth €1,500 a year to the average family.
“This budget is different. It is a no-deal [Brexit] budget and has to be more conservative than previous budgets.
“What that means is no across the board income tax cuts and welfare increases.”
His comments come after reports that only payments for vulnerable groups, included child-related ones and the elderly, will be increased in Tuesday's Budget.
Criticising opposition parties at the dinner, Mr Varadkar also pledges Fine Gael would win the next general election. He told the dinner audience.
“When the next election comes I believe we can win it. In fact, I am sure of it even though it may not become apparent until the last week or ten days of the election campaign.”
Speaking about the budget at the dinner, Mr Varadkar also added:
“And there will be targetted measures to help families with the cost of living.
“It will also be a climate budget. We will use the Budget to step-up Climate Action. We must do that in every Budget from now on.
“And there will be a very substantial package to helps business and jobs that are viable into the future but vulnerable because of a hard Brexit, especially in sectors like tourism and agrifood.”