Key to UK’s future lies in Dublin, says Tusk

European Council head throws weight behind Varadkar in Brexit negotiations

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that Ireland's position on the border has not changed and that we cannot be expected to take a 'leap in the dark' and move onto phase two of Brexit negotiations. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has thrown his support firmly behind Ireland in Brexit negotiations, saying if the United Kingdom’s offer on the Border “is unacceptable to Ireland it will be unacceptable to the EU”.

Mr Tusk met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin ahead of Monday’s deadline for British prime minister Theresa May to submit her Government’s final offer for the first phase of Brexit negotiations.

Mr Tusk offered robust support for Ireland’s negotiating position. In effect, he said that the EU would give Ireland the right to vet any offer on the Border that is being offered by Mrs May.

“We agreed today that before proposing guidelines on transition and future relations I will consult the Taoiseach on [whether or not] the UK offer is sufficient for the Irish Government.

“Let me say very clearly if the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland it will be unacceptable for the EU,” he said.

Unequivocal

In an unequivocal message to the British government, he said: “This is why the key to the UK’s future lies, in some ways, in Dublin, at least as long as Brexit negotiations continue.”

Mr Tusk’s backing will be seen as giving a major fillip to the Government in the run-up to Monday’s deadline and the crucial EU summit which begins on December 14th.

Earlier on Friday Mr Varadkar spoke with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who also expressed strong support for the Irish position.

A special Cabinet meeting has been arranged for Monday morning, at which Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will brief colleagues on progress on the Border issue.

No other contacts have been scheduled between Mr Varadkar and other leaders, including the British prime minister, over the weekend. However, Government officials last night stressed this may change as the situation evolves.

Final offer

Later on Monday, Mrs May will meet Mr Juncker to put the final British offer on the three key phase-one issues: the so-called “divorce” bill, the rights of EU and British citizens post-Brexit, and Border issues with Ireland.

Mr Varadkar stressed the urgency of the situation but said he was optimistic that agreement could be reached, when he spoke at a joint media conference with Mr Tusk.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, speaking at an event in Dublin earlier on Friday, said a deal could be reached on securing assurances from London on the Border post-Brexit but more work was required over the coming days.

He said: “We will be insistent on there being no fudge here that we get something real and something credible.”