Firms will soon take decisions that bite as Brexit talks go on – Varadkar

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has warned that businesses in the United Kingdom will soon make decisions that “bite” after admitting that reaching a Brexit deal could roll into the new year.

The Taoiseach said that while politicians and negotiators can make last-minute decisions on Britain’s withdrawal deal, firms are already making plans in preparation for Brexit.

While the two-day European Council summit was billed as the deadline for signing off a deal between the European Union and the UK, Brexit negotiating teams are now looking towards the December summit and perhaps beyond to reaching an agreement.

When asked if January was a likely month for a deal, Mr Varadkar admitted he did not know.

“There is another summit in December, I really hope we can have it done in November, and if we don’t then we will do it in December, but to be honest I just don’t know, I really think it’s in everyone’s interest that we get an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

“Politicians may be able to make late, last night decisions in rooms in the new year or in December but businesses are going to make plans long before that.

“Business, banks, employers, airlines will start making decisions and they will start making decisions that bite, particularly in the United Kingdom but also in Ireland and other places and I think it’s in the interests of all of our citizens that the politicians and officials get on with this and get it done as soon as possible.”

In a press conference at the end of the summit, Mr Varadkar said “some progress” has been made in the last couple of weeks but said there are still “big gaps” in terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK and the backstop.

According to Mr Varadkar, British Prime Minister Theresa May did not attempt to row back on her commitment to the backstop during their bilateral meeting on Wednesday.

The Democratic Unionists, however, have threatened “consequences” if the British government does anything which could undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK.

It is adamant it will not agree to anything which results in imposition of customs or trade checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, known as a border in the Irish Sea.

Mrs May relies on her DUP allies’ 10 MPs to prop up her minority government in key votes and there have been suggestions the Northern Irish party could vote against the Budget.

Mr Varadkar told reporters on Thursday that while there was a political context between the DUP and the Conservatives, the Brexit negotiations were between the UK and the EU, and not political parties.

He added: “I certainly understand where they (DUP) are coming from. I understand their position, which is that they don’t want there to be any differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

“I suppose where I’m coming from is a slightly different position, in that we have the Good Friday Agreement and if you think about the Good Friday Agreement there are three basic philosophical principles.”

He also said there would be “huge difficulties” within the EU 27 member states to consider making the backstop UK-wide, adding that the EU is willing to make exceptions to treat Northern Ireland as a special case because of its difficult history and unique geography.

He added: “It will have a land border with the European Union which is not a land border and so allowances can be made by the European Union for Northern Ireland.

“I would feel very strongly about this as well as a European as well as an Irishman, you couldn’t a situation whereby the UK had access to the single market which is our market and at the same time was able to undercut us in terms of standards whether it was environmental standards, labour laws, state aid competition and I don’t think any country or any union would be asked to accept that.”

The Fine Gael leader said that the EU acknowledges the difficulties which Mrs May faces in securing a deal that she can get through Westminster, adding that the EU wants to help her.

“We know how divided British politics is at the moment, not just the Government, and the Government party but also Parliament itself.

“But we also have to bear in mind the other side of that equation – any agreement also has to be ratified by the European Parliament.

“And the European Parliament would not or should not approve a deal that undermines the single market and doesn’t give Ireland what we need in relation to the backstop.”

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