Varadkar to travel to England for make-or-break Brexit showdown with Johnson

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to travel to Liverpool on Friday for a make-or-break showdown meeting with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson.

Varadkar to travel to England for make-or-break Brexit showdown with Johnson

- with reporting from Elaine Loughlin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to travel to Cheshire tomorrow for a make-or-break showdown meeting with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson.

The two leaders will hold a “private meeting to allow them and their teams to have detailed discussions about the process for securing agreement for a Brexit deal”.

The crunch meeting comes as the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned a deal to avoid a no-deal Brexit is “not really” possible.

"To put things very frankly, though, and to try and be objective, this particular point, we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement."

He added: "The thing is, though, time is pressing. We are one week away from the European Council summit."

He said the British proposals for alternatives to the backstop have lead to "serious concerns".

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar was questioned on anonymous briefings coming from Downing Street which suggested Mr Varadkar has noting to lose by refusing to compromise on Brexit.

Responding to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan the Dáil, the Taoiseach said: "I am aware of the various anonymous briefings we are reading of in the newspapers about me, Ireland and Chancellor Merkel and I do not want to make much response to anonymous briefings, whether from Downing Street or from my own ranks. If people want to brief they should do so publicly and openly.

There has not been any change to the EU negotiating position. We decide our guidelines at EU Council meetings and they have not changed and cannot change until the summit next week at the very earliest. As far as the Irish Government is concerned we do want a deal. We are willing to work hard to get one.

He added: "We will work until the last moment to get one but not at any cost. We are absolutely open to proposals that would take into account the democratic wishes and views of the people of Northern Ireland on consent and democracy. We need to make sure, however, that any such arrangements are workable."

Defending the Budget, which was criticised for failing to support the most vulnerable in society, Mr Varadkar said that in a the event of a no-deal Brexit, the people who are most vulnerable are those who will lose their jobs "and that is what this budget is all about".

"We are putting in place the firepower to pay social welfare to those who may need it because they lose their jobs and, more importantly, to save businesses and jobs. I would rather borrow money to save jobs than to pay the dole and that is the policy we are pursuing."

At tonight’s Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting, Mr Varadkar told his party that he will be meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cheshire tomorrow. Ahead of next week’s EU summit, Mr Varadkar said there is a desire to get a deal on Brexit.

This story was updated at 7.27pm.

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