Meeting between Varadkar and Johnson may be delayed
There is speculation UK prime minister may be planning snap election, after G7 summit
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is due to meet French leader Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Donald Trump this month. Photograph: Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images
A planned meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK prime minister Boris Johnston may not take place until early September and may be indefinitely delayed if Mr Johnson calls an election next month.
Sources believe scheduling issues may mean the first bilateral between Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson will be delayed until after the G7 meeting, with a date in early September mooted.
There is speculation Mr Johnson may be planning a snap election in the same month, potentially before any such meeting with the Taoiseach can take place.
It comes as the British cabinet secretary Michael Gove insisted an agreement to avoid a no-deal Brexit was “eminently doable”.
He made the comments on a visit to the Border area of Northern Ireland.
Mr Gove, however, on the first of a two-day visit to the North, repeated that Mr Johnson was determined the United Kingdom would quit the European Union by October 31st.
Mr Gove said he understood the “analysis”, as recently stated by Mr Varadkar, that even if there was a no-deal Brexit, lengthy negotiations will have to begin on citizens’ rights, the Border and the UK’s financial settlement with the EU.
“But we want a deal, we believe that a deal is eminently doable. We have spelt out what we think is problematic with the backstop and why it needs to be removed,” he said.
In London, speculation around a snap election increased after Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, in a missive on Thursday night, cancelled all leave for government advisers until October 31st. Special advisers were emailed by Mr Johnson’s senior adviser Edward Lister, saying there was “some confusion about taking holiday” and told none should be booked until October 31st.
“There is serious work to be done between now and October 31st and we should be focused on the job,” the email said.
In the North, Mr Gove was asked if there was room for compromise between the EU and Dublin’s insistence that the backstop must remain and Mr Johnson’s equally adamant stance that it must go. In particular, he was asked would Mr Johnson accept a time-limited backstop, as the DUP previously had urged as a compromise.
Mr Gove said: “The prime minister is keen to explore with European Union leaders how we can ensure that we can have a withdrawal agreement that will pass parliament. He has talked to leaders across the EU and he stands ready to talk during the course of the next couple of months to speak to any EU leader and to pursue with as much energy and openness as possible what alternative arrangements might be which would ensure we can secure a timely and orderly withdrawal from the EU”.
The Minister, who is charged with preparing the UK’s exit from the EU, said he was not involved in negotiating any compromises. He repeated that Mr Johnson was earnest in his October 31st deadline.
“I think the message is learned clearly that the prime minister is not going to delay our exit and October 31st is a hard deadline,” said Mr Gove.
He added, “I think the fact that it is a different prime minister who has been unambiguous in making that commitment and who is prepared to devote the resources which are required to making sure that we are ready – I think the fact that we will see money being invested, infrastructure being strengthened and support for business being enhanced – all of that is a sign of the seriousness of intent.”
Asked how much the British government would spend on no-deal preparations before October 31st he replied, “Whatever it takes.”
He added, “We have also stressed that there is an absolutely cast-iron commitment not to have a hard border and not to have infrastructure at the Border.”