Johnson and Varadkar to hold crunch Brexit meeting

8 October 2019, 19:58

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar will hold crunch meeting in a bid to save Brexit talks
Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar will hold crunch meeting in a bid to save Brexit talks. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK Prime minister and the Irish Taioseach will hold a crucial meeting later this week in a bid to save Brexit talks.

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar spoke on the phone for about 40 minutes following accusations from Downing Street that the EU were making the chances of a deal "essentially impossible".

A No 10 spokesman said: "Both sides strongly reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal. They hope to meet in person later this week."

Earlier on Tuesday European Council President Donald Tusk accused the UK leader of engaging in a "stupid blame game" following reports from Downing Street regarding a conversation with Angela Merkel.

Donald Tusk accused Boris Johnson of taking part in a "stupid blame game"
Donald Tusk accused Boris Johnson of taking part in a "stupid blame game". Picture: PA

No 10 briefings claimed the German Chancellor had described the chances of a withdrawal agreement being reached as "overwhelmingly unlikely" unless the UK was willing to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union.

Mr Tusk tweeted: "At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people.

"You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis (where are you going)?"

A number of EU leaders have dismissed the prime minister's Brexit proposal as it would reintroduce customs checks on the island of Ireland.

The No 10 source said Mrs Merkel had told the Prime Minister Ireland must at least have a veto on Northern Ireland leaving the EU with the rest of the UK.

"It was a very useful clarifying moment in all sorts of ways," the unnamed source, quoted by Sky News, said.

"If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but ever."

Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel had a "frank exchange" over the phone
Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel had a "frank exchange" over the phone. Picture: PA

Boris Johnson's official spokesman recognised there had been a "frank exchange" with the German Chancellor but would not comment further on the claims from the 'source'.

Germany's government also remained tight-lipped on what it described as "confidential conversations".

Labour accused the prime minister of "cynically" attempting to "sabotage" talks with Europe and that his strategy had always been to leave without a deal.

Mr Johnson's tactics also worried UK ministers, with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith tweeting: "I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security cooperation with Ireland is unacceptable. This is not in the interest of NI or the Union.

For more related stories on Brexit, keep up to date using Global's Newsroom's 'Brexit' section where you can find out what advice David Cameron gave to Boris Johnson and how the courts responded to legal action attempting to force the prime minister to seek an extension to Article 50.

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