Irish premier: UK could ‘halt or delay’ Brexit

The UK can remove the threat of no-deal by halting or delaying Brexit, the Irish Taoiseach said.

Leo Varadkar said he wanted to help give assurances which Britain may need to ratify the draft withdrawal treaty, without changing its substance.

The Irish Government is accelerating recruitment of customs officers and veterinary officers, and putting infrastructure in ports and airports, but not the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail parliament in Dublin: “It remains in the hands of the UK to decide that we don’t end up in a no-deal scenario.

“The option is there to revoke Article 50, the option is there to extend Article 50 and while there may not be a majority for anything, or at least any deal, at the moment in the House of Commons, I do believe that there is a majority that the UK should not be plunged into a no-deal scenario.

“It is in their hands at any point in time to take the threat of no-deal off the table, either by revoking Article 50 or, if that is a step too far, by extending it.”

Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty giving any EU member state the right to quit unilaterally and the mechanism by which the UK triggered the process of leaving the EU.

Withdrawal is due to take place next March.

Mr Varadkar held a telephone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday afternoon ahead of this week’s meeting of leaders in Brussels.

The Irish premier added: “Our approach is that we have a deal on the table, a deal that has the support of 28 Governments, negotiated over 15 months.

“Our objective is to get the deal ratified by the House of Commons and that is what we will be working on over the next couple of weeks, giving the UK the assurances it may need but never compromising on the basic fundamental substance and written letter of the backstop.”