Matt Frei 10am - 1pm
Negotiating a Brexit deal will now be 'very difficult' says Irish PM Leo Varadkar
9 October 2019, 08:36
Negotiating a new Brexit deal ahead of a crucial EU summit next week will be “very difficult,” Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned Boris Johnson.
The Irish premier, who is expected to meet the Prime Minister in Dublin later this week, also said language around the deal was becoming more toxic “in some quarters.”
The Prime Minister's chances of a breakthrough with Brussels are looking increasingly unlikely after accusations from Number 10 that the bloc was making it "essentially impossible" for Britain to leave with a deal.
Mr Johnson is hoping to gain concessions from Mr Varadkar during in-person talks set to take place tomorrow or Friday.
But with the October 31 deadline rapidly closing in, the Taoiseach warned of the challenges of securing a new deal by next week - a key period in the Brexit saga with the summit in Brussels.
Mr Varadkar said Ireland and the EU would not accept an agreement at "any cost".
He told RTE News: "There are some fundamental objectives that haven't changed for the past three years and we need them guaranteed.
"I think it is going to be very difficult to secure an agreement by next week, quite frankly.
"Essentially what the United Kingdom has done is repudiate the deal that we negotiated in good faith with Prime Minister (Theresa) May's government over two years and sort of put half of that now back on the table and are saying, 'That's a concession'. And of course it isn't really."
The Prime Minister must have found a deal by the end of October 17/18 to avoid a dilemma over the Benn Act, which compels him to ask Brussels for an extension if he cannot get an agreement past MPs when he returns, a move he has ruled out taking.
Earlier there was fury in Brussels following a series of No 10 briefings claiming German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear a deal was now "overwhelmingly unlikely".
No 10 sources claimed Mrs Merkel had told the PM that Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union.
European Council president Donald Tusk accused Mr Johnson of engaging in a "stupid blame game" ahead of next week's crucial EU summit.
The dramatic escalation in the war of words between Brussels and London followed a telephone call on Tuesday between Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel to discuss the latest UK proposal to resolve the deadlock over the Northern Ireland backstop.
EU leaders have dismissed the plan as the basis for a settlement as it would mean the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland, albeit taking place well away from the border between the North and the Republic.
A 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.