Government willing to add to Brexit deal to reassure DUP

Additions ‘must not undermine’ substance of Dublin-Brussels-London agreement

Leo Varadkar: he has said on numerous occasions that while the wording of a deal could be changed, its substance must not

Leo Varadkar: he has said on numerous occasions that while the wording of a deal could be changed, its substance must not

 

The Government is open to adding extra elements, such as on the strength of the UK as a political entity, to this week’s Brexit deal as long as they do not undermine any elements already contained in the agreement.

A spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the prospect of including additional elements to the deal to assuage the concerns of the DUP “doesn’t seem unreasonable”.

It was stressed, however, that any additions must not undermine or dilute the substance and meaning of the deal agreed between officials in Dublin, Brussels and London on Monday morning.

Government sources said the view now was to “stand firm” on what was achieved and await what moves may come from London.

The agreement, which dealt with a number of Irish issues such as avoiding a hard border, was struck between officials but British prime minister Theresa May did not sign off on it due to objections from the DUP.

EU leaders must decide if “sufficient progress” has been made in the areas of citizens’ rights, the so-called “divorce bill” and Irish issues to allow Brexit talks to proceed. The next phase will focus on a post-Brexit transition phase and the future EU-UK trading relationship.

While it was initially hoped that the talks could proceed after the European Council summit on December 14th and 15th, it is now accepted in the Government that the decision may not be taken until the new year.

Public domain

Government sources have said that now that the shape of the proposed agreement has entered the public domain, it will not be politically acceptable for Dublin to back down on its contents.

“The view is there is an agreement between the UK prime minister and the Irish Taoiseach and endorsed by the European institutions,” one figure said. “If phase two doesn’t happen it will be the fault of the DUP.”

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman was asked if further elements could be included in the deal which would, for example, reassure the DUP on the strength of the UK.

“It’s a possibility,” the spokesman replied, but repeated that the Government’s position was that a deal was agreed between officials this week, and the substance and meaning of that deal stood.

The DUP is in a confidence and supply agreement with Mrs May’s Conservative government in Westminster. Mr Varadkar has said on numerous occasions that while the wording of a deal could be changed, its substance must not.

The British government has not contacted the European Commission task force, led by Michel Barnier, or the Government in Dublin with any requests yet to add or amend the agreement, the Taoiseach’s spokesman said.

Government sources said that while there was openness in London to stitching in guarantees that Mrs May needs to give the DUP, Dublin would not be making any moves to initiate change.

Conciliatory

The Government will be “conciliatory” in its public comments on Brexit negotiations in the coming days but Dublin’s core position will not change, the Cabinet was told on Tuesday.

It is understood Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that the language from Dublin would be conciliatory in the coming days but the overall position would not change.

It is understood no clarity was provided at the Cabinet meeting on whether Dublin was aware if Mrs May had secured the backing of DUP leader Arlene Foster before details of the Brexit deal emerged.