Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Irish PM looks to meet Boris Johnson for Brexit talks next week

Less than a month before the Brexit deadline, the British leader is looking to abolish the contentious Irish backstop

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar waves as he meets Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Dublin, Ireland, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo
Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar waves as he meets Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Dublin, Ireland, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is seeking a meeting with his British counterpart Boris Johnson next week, stressing on Saturday that time was tight for London to go further with the fresh Brexit proposals it presented this week.

With less than a month until its scheduled exit, Mr Johnson is seeking significant changes to how the most contentious issue - the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland - was dealt with in the divorce deal agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May, almost a year ago.

However the European Union and Ireland said on Thursday that the proposals were unlikely to yield a deal, with Dublin bluntly warning Britain was heading towards a no-deal exit unless it made more concessions.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson would consider vetoing the EU's seven-year budget and send a Eurosceptic commissioner to Brussels to disrupt the bloc's workings if he was forced into a Brexit delay.

The news has not been welcomed by Brussels, which wants Mr Johnson to compromise further and offer to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs union.

With signs that talks between Britain and its largest trading partner were on the verge of collapse, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Saturday that Mr Johnson's government would bear the full responsibility for a no-deal Brexit.

Although Ireland's leader struck a more optimistic tone than Mr Barnier, he acknowledged that Britain and the EU were running out of time to reach a compromise.

“We are in the process of trying to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Johnson next week,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.

“Time is tight. We have a European Summit on October 17 and 18 and it’s not reasonable to expect 27 or 28 heads of government to decide and sign off on something they only see the night before or two days before.”

The prime minister of Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said he told Mr Johnson in a telephone call on Saturday that it was important to find a solution within a week, in time for the summit.

“Johnson stated that he agreed with the timetable and understood that the conditions I presented regarding upholding the Good Friday (Northern Irish peace) Agreement, maintaining the unity of the EU and ensuring a functional internal market are a prerequisite for a solution,” Prime Minister Antti Rinne said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the British prime minister declined to comment on discussions with other EU leaders.

Updated: October 6, 2019 02:24 AM

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