Irish PM: Any Article 50 extension must have a purpose

The Irish premier has said any extension to the UK leaving the EU must have a purpose.

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

Mr Varadkar made the comments in Dublin as Brexit negotiations between UK and the EU remain deadlocked, and amid warnings in Westminster that British PM Theresa May could be heading for another defeat in Tuesday’s House of Commons vote.

The Taoiseach 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,” Mr Varadkar 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 then 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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