Cut UK Government some slack, says Leo Varadkar

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said it is time to cut the UK Government some slack.

Mr Varadkar said there was a real risk of the UK crashing out of the EU by accident.

Speaking at the Government Buildings in Dublin, he added Ireland would not consider any changes to the backstop or Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Varadkar said: “There is a real risk that we wish to avoid of no-deal happening by accident despite people’s best intentions.

“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days.”

Mr Varadkar said the Irish Government was willing to support both of those requests but it was “not entertaining any change to the Withdrawal Agreement or the backstop”.

EU leaders are set to attend an EU summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

The Taoiseach made the remarks on Wednesday after European Council president Donald Tusk said he believed a short delay “would be possible”.

Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk requesting an extension to Article 50 (Downing Street/PA)

Earlier on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May formally requested a three-month delay to Brexit to postpone the UK’s departure from the European Union from March 29 to June 30.

Mrs May made the request in a letter to Mr Tusk exactly 1,000 days after the 2016 UK referendum.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish government was willing to to cut the British government some slack because it wanted to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“There are some people who would take a much more hardline view that we shouldn’t agree to an extension,” he said.

“There are others who take a view that an extension should be granted unconditionally.

“The view I’m taking, and the view the Irish Government is taking, is that we want to avoid no-deal on March 29.

“We believe that’s what everyone in Europe and certainly in the UK wants as well.”

He confirmed Mrs May would address the nation on Wednesday evening.

“That will be an opportunity for her to set out her plan, her timeline, as to how an extension would work,” he said.

“We always said we’d be open to an extension if there was a purpose to it and I think it’s important that we hear from her first and we’ll respond as 27, as the European Union, in the next couple of days.”

If the delay is approved at a Brussels summit on Thursday, Mrs May will rush legislation through UK parliament next week to remove the date March 29 from Brexit laws.

She intends to table her Withdrawal Agreement for a third time in the House of Commons in the hope of overturning huge defeats inflicted on it in January and March.

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