Irish premier does not expect a breakthrough at meeting with Prime Minister

The Irish premier says he does not expect a breakthrough at his meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson is due to visit Dublin and meet with Leo Varadkar on Monday, in his first visit as Prime Minister.

“I don’t think the meeting tomorrow is a high stakes meeting, as I don’t anticipate a big breakthrough tomorrow, if we come to an agreement that agreement will happen in October at the EU summit,” Mr Varadkar said.

“But the stakes are high, certainly I don’t think anyone can argue with that.”

Brexit
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre right) and European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee (second left) with port and customs officials during a visit to new physical infrastructure at Dublin Port (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish Government has consistently stressed that negotiations on Brexit will only take place between the UK and the EU27, and the meeting will be about “sharing ideas” rather than negotiating bilaterally on the UK leaving the EU.

“It will be an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit better, to see if there is common ground, I’m sure there will be,” Mr Varadkar added.

“I’d hope that an opportunity to share each other’s analysis and an opportunity to talk about some of the issues will be helpful.

“I am conscious that Prime Minister Johnson did vote for the backstop at one point, and has taken a different position since then.

“The situation in the UK is very fluid at the moment, Prime Minister May, with a parliamentary majority was not able to get a deal through the House of Commons.

“Prime Minister Johnson doesn’t have a majority, so I’ll be asking him how can he convince us that he is actually capable or has the votes to get a deal through.

About 80% of trade in goods and merchandise between Britain and Ireland comes through Dublin Port, so we need to be ready for the possibility of a No Deal on Nov 1st. This is one of the new inspection sites which has been put in place at the port. #Brexitpic.twitter.com/566IJwwMeP

— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) September 8, 2019

“Sooner or later we’re going to have to have a deal.”

In the event of no-deal, Mr Varadkar says it will not possible to talk about a free trade agreement between the two countries, until issues around the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement associated with the UK leaving the EU are resolved, which the Irish leader says were already resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Brexit
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (third left) and European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee (left) with port and customs officials (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I am loathe to speculate, but if we end up in a no-deal scenario on November 1, I do think within weeks or months the EU and UK will have to sit down round the table and negotiate again, but it would be a tragedy if we got to that point,” he said.

On Mr Johnson’s comments that he would rather be found “dead in a ditch” than seek an extension, Mr Varadkar said he did not feel the same.

“It’s important we remember that this is not about politicians, it’s about protecting people’s jobs, business and peace and security – and if an extension is required to do that, well I think any politician should be prepared to do that.”

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