EU leaders will meet this week to decide whether to hold a special summit on the Irish border because not enough progress has been made in Brexit negotiations, Leo Varadkar has said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking ahead of this Thursday’s Brexit summit of EU leaders, snapped it was “not my job” to help embattled Prime Minister Theresa May to find a solution to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland.
He told reporters: “It’s not my job to help Mrs May. The people of the United Kingdom decided on Brexit and it’s not my job to help prime minister May or the United Kingdom government.
“It’s my job to make sure that we don’t have a hard border on our island and make sure that whatever the new trading relationship is between the UK and the EU, that the negative effect of this is minimized.”
It had originally been hoped that the British government would be in a position to provide greater clarity about its plans for the Northern Ireland border after Brexit by this week’s summit to enable negotiations to proceed. That is not the case.
Speaking at an event in Dublin Castle to mark the 25th anniversary of Ireland’s decriminalisation of homosexuality Mr Varadkar called for fewer deadlines and more actual negotiations. He said a special summit could now be held in September because the June deadline for a new “backstop” agreement will not now be met.
“The draft conclusions have now been signed off by the 27 governments. We are saying there has been some progress on some of the other aspects of the withdrawal agreement but there hasn’t been any progress since March on the Irish issue.
“EU countries are reaffirming their commitment to insisting that there is a backstop in the withdrawal agreement. There can be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop.”
He said said contingency preparations are being made at ports and airports for Britain to crash out of the European Union with no deal.
“Negotiations need to intensify in the coming weeks,” he said.
“We are waiting for the British to produce their white paper on the future relationship. That is due in early July.
“It will be an intensification of negotiations rather than a stalling of negotiations, also EU countries are going to begin preparations for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
“I don’t think that is likely, nobody does, but we have to think it is a possibility and that means making preparations in our ports and airports for that eventuality”.
“Brexit happens in March but what we have done as the EU 27 is to say that we think October is the last time that you could realistically have a withdrawal agreement finalized because it does require parliamentary ratification both by the UK parliament and the European parliament and we would like to give the time between the end of October and the end of March to do exactly that.
“It is something that we are going to review at the summit in Brussels as to whether there is an argument for having a special summit, perhaps in September. I think really what is required is that negotiations intensify rather than setting deadlines.”