Emergency Brexit meeting held by Irish Government

The Irish Government has held an emergency meeting on the unfolding Brexit developments.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also spoken to EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker about the last-ditch efforts in Strasbourg to find an agreement with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Ministers were summoned at short notice for the meeting in Government Buildings in Dublin at 7pm. The meeting adjourned at 8.30pm, with further talks scheduled for later on Monday night.

Mr Varadkar was due to fly to the United States on Monday evening for his annual St Patrick’s trip, but his plans were changed at the last minute to accommodate the unscheduled cabinet meeting.

A Government spokeswoman said: “The Taoiseach spoke to President Juncker this evening. The Cabinet met to discuss developments across the day.

“Cabinet meeting adjourned just after 8.30pm and will resume again later this evening. Discussions are continuing.”

Earlier on Monday, Mr Varadkar had said any extension to the UK leaving the EU must have a purpose.

He said if the UK took the decision to extend Article 50 it must not lead to a rolling cliff-edge scenario.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the launch of the Government’s national childcare scheme at the Department of Children.

“If there is going to be an extension, it has to be an extension with a purpose,” he said.

“Nobody across the European Union wants to see a rolling cliff-edge where tough decisions just get put off until the end of April, then to the end of May and then maybe till the end of July.”

He said the uncertainty around Brexit was already worrying Irish citizens, damaging business confidence and affecting the agriculture industry in particular.

“If there is going to be an extension there has to be a purpose to that extension,” he continued.

Mr Varadkar said he could not predict the outcome of Tuesday’s vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons.

“If it doesn’t pass, I understand that there will be a vote on Wednesday to take no-deal off the table and then potentially a vote on Thursday around an extension,” he said.

He added that any change in the planned votes in the House of Commons this week would miss the point.

“I do hear some suggestion that the votes may be called off in favour of a new vote as a result of which the House of Commons would tell the European Union what they want. That really misses the point. We’re two-and-a-half years, if not nearly three years now, since the referendum,” he said.

“It is far too late for the United Kingdom to tell us what they want. The Withdrawal Agreement requires a compromise and this Withdrawal Agreement is already a compromise.”

Mr Varadkar also reiterated that the threat of a no-deal was not coming from the EU or Ireland, adding that the UK Parliament could take the threat of a no-deal off the table at any time as March 29 was a self-imposed deadline.

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