Taoiseach: Anyone hoping EU Brexit solidarity will falter in for nasty surprise

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said anyone hoping that EU solidarity with Ireland will falter on the Brexit border backstop is “in for a nasty surprise”.

Speaking at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar said: “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,” he said.

“Ireland’s concerns have become the European Union’s concerns.”

Mr Varadkar added that no-deal planning is now planning for a very real and possible outcome.

“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.”

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he could not believe the British Government has let the issue of no deal get this far.

“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 euro to prepare for no deal.”

Mr Coveney added that the border is a key issue for Ireland.

“There is a legal basis that needs to be put in place for the border,” he said.

The idea that there is even a possibility of a no-deal Brexit is crazy

“We will have a legal text published next week and emergency legislation to protect that Common Travel Area.

“A no-deal Brexit will cause enormous strain on Ireland north and south and many people will be deeply impacted.

“The idea that there is even a possibility of a no-deal Brexit is crazy.”

Mr Coveney said he felt it was the government’s role to be optimistic.

“I believe the Prime Minister can find a way of getting a majority on the Withdrawal Agreement,” he said.

“The EU will try to accommodate the Prime Minister but will have to be reasonable.

“If you listen to what they (the EU) are saying, the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for negotiation.

“The British Parliament will act on the basis of what’s right to protect British interests but it will be a fractious journey to get there.

“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 would like further discussions between the Conservatives and Labour on Brexit.

“The Labour Party in the UK are important in these discussions,” he said.

“Certainly it would be helpful to see serious dialogue between the two large parties in Westminster and it needs to happen yesterday.”

Finally, on Article 50 being extended, Mr Coveney said: “Ireland has always said we will not be an obstacle to an extension if it was reasonable to do it.”

- Press Association

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