Varadkar and Tusk seek written UK proposals on Brexit by next week

Taoiseach also asserts ‘wide gap’ remains between EU and UK on achieving goals

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, have agreed the United Kingdom must produce written proposals to end the Brexit crisis next week.

The agreement between the two men, which heightens the pressure on British prime minister Boris Johnson, was reached during a meeting in New York on the margin of the United Nations’ General Assembly

“The withdrawal agreement is actually an international treaty. It’s not the kind of thing that can be amended or cobbled together late at night at the European Council meeting on 17th of October,” said Mr Varadkar.

“So if the UK does have meaningful proposals, changes that they would like to suggest to the withdrawal agreement or to the joint political declaration more particularly, we really need to see them in advance so that they can be worked through and worked up in advance of the EU summit.”


He continued: “It’s essentially the way the European Union works. We have working methods, and I know that President Tusk and other EU heads of government would like to see British proposals in writing really in the first week of October, otherwise it is very hard to see how we could agree something at the summit in the middle of October.”

Varadkar has also warned there is "still a very wide gap between the EU and the UK" on Brexit, despite a "good" meeting with Mr Johnson in New York on Tuesday.

Speaking following a 40-minute meeting between the two leaders on the fringes of the UN General Assembly, he said: “It was a good meeting in the sense that we were able to get into more detail this time. However, there is still a very wide gap between the EU and the UK in terms of achieving what we need to achieve before October.”

Mr Varadkar noted it was the second time they had met in person. While the first meeting in Dublin had been a “chance to build relationships,” he said, Tuesday’s meeting “was a little bit more detailed. We got to talk about some of the detail of the withdrawal agreement and the backstop”.

Earlier, the Taoiseach refused to be drawn on the UK supreme court ruling that said Mr Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was unlawful.

"I'm aware of the decision that has been made by the UK supreme court. It is very much an internal matter for the United Kingdom so I don't think it would be helpful for the Irish Government to comment on it."

Asked if he would join the calls for Mr Johnson to resign, the Taoiseach said: “No absolutely not. Whoever is prime minister of the United Kingdom is somebody we’re going to work with. It’s not us who decides the Prime Minister of the UK. That’s an appointment made by the Queen based on the composition of the House of Commons.”

Mr Johnson, who was in New York for the United Nations meeting when the supreme court decision was announced, was due to deliver a speech to the General Assembly later on Tuesday as planned, before flying back to Britain overnight.

Bilateral meeting

Mr Johnson also held a bilateral meeting with Mr Trump during the day. According to the White House, during the meeting the leaders “underlined their shared commitment to agreeing an ambitious free trade agreement once UK leaves the EU on 31st October”.

Mr Trump also pledged to sign a “magnificent” and “exceptional” trade deal with Britain after it departs the EU in his own speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday morning.

“We stand ready to complete an exceptional new trade agreement with the UK which will bring tremendous benefits to both countries,” Mr Trump said during his speech that was highly critical of the global trading system.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent