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Leo Varadkar: ‘Nasty surprise’ for those who think EU unity will falter over Brexit | Politics News

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Those who believe the EU’s solidarity towards Ireland will falter over the Brexit backstop are “in for a nasty surprise”, the Irish prime minister has warned.

Leo Varadkar said Dublin’s “concerns have become the European Union’s concerns” during the UK’s exit from the bloc.

He told the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit at Dublin Castle: “One of the most striking things about what has unfolded since the UK’s decision to leave has been the remarkable solidarity from the EU.

“Despite many attempts to bilateralise issues or to divide the 27, the solidarity has been strong and resolute and those who think it will break at the last moment are in for a nasty surprise.”

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaks to Reuters during an interview in Dublin
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Simon Coveney said it was ‘crazy’ that no-deal was still on the table

The backstop has emerged as the main issue preventing UK Prime Minister Theresa May getting a Brexit deal through parliament in time for Britain to leave the EU as scheduled at the end of March.

The arrangement is an insurance policy designed to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event such a scenario isn’t averted by a future EU-UK trade relationship.

If the deadlock cannot be broken, the default position is that Britain will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement on 29 March.

On the prospect of there being a no-deal Brexit, Mr Varadkar said this was now a very real and possible scenario.

He said: “I explained to [European Commission] president [Jean-Claude] Juncker the assistance Ireland will require in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“For his part he emphasised that the EU stands ready to help Ireland in finding and funding the specific solutions to the challenges we might face.”



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The backstop explained

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, expressed his exasperation that Brexit has yet to be resolved.

“I think it is extraordinary and unbelievable really that the British parliament and British government have let it come to this,” he said.

“We are 42 days out until Britain is due to leave, there is still division within a political party that is causing Ireland to spend hundreds of millions of euros to prepare for no deal.”







Sky Data poll: Irish overwhelmingly back government’s pressure on backstop

Mr Coveney said it was “crazy” the prospect of Britain exiting the EU without a divorce agreement was still on the table.

Mrs May is currently trying to secure legally binding changes to the backstop in order to win round MPs, who overwhelmingly rejected her original Brexit deal in a vote last month.

Mr Coveney said the EU would “try to accommodate the prime minister but will have to be reasonable”.

But he cautioned there was a limit to the leeway that would be forthcoming.

“We cannot and will not allow a situation, that in order for the prime minister to get a deal with hardline MPs, we will not allow Irish interests to be sacrificed to achieve that – we can’t,” Mr Coveney said.

The current impasse has triggered calls for Article 50 – the two-year process during which a country has to negotiate the terms of its EU exit – to be extended.

On that prospect, Mr Coveney said: “Ireland has always said we will not be an obstacle to an extension if it was reasonable to do it.”

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