No plans for emergency EU summit, Taoiseach tells Dáil

Varadkar says Ireland and EU are not threatening a no-deal Brexit

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: said the only active politician representing the majority feeling in the North is Lady Sylvia Hermon. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Ireland and the EU are not threatening a no-deal Brexit and it is the UK government and parliament that have the authority to remove that threat, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar, speaking in advance of a phone call on Wednesday afternoon with British prime minister Theresa May, insisted that the withdrawal agreement "is not up for negotiation and it's not going to be reopened".

He told the Dáil there are no plans to organise an emergency summit to discuss any changes to the guidelines, nor is there any pressure to do so.

Mr Varadkar also said he did not believe any “alternative arrangements” existed to the Northern Ireland backstop, which keeps the North within EU regulatory alignment “unless and until” another agreement is reached,


Referring to the amendment accepted by Westminster to seek alternative arrangements to the backstop, Mr Varadkar said: “I do not know what those alternative arrangements are and I don’t believe that such alternative arrangements exist and that is why we have the agreement we have now.”

Rescind the threat

Answering opposition leaders’ questions in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said the UK government and the UK parliament have it in their authority to rescind the threat of a no-deal Brexit at any time. They have the authority to do that either by revoking article 50, or by extending article 50, of the treaty of Lisbon which gives any EU state the right to withdraw.

“Ireland and the EU are not threatening no deal,” he said.

He also defended the Government’s approach on Northern Ireland and said it was “still my view that we need to focus on ratifying the withdrawal and after that there is space to engage”, specifically on the Executive and Assembly.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said it was "intolerable that at this most historic, sensitive time where issue of Irish Border is absolutely centre stage, that the only active politician representing the majority feeling in the North is Lady Sylvia Hermon".


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said history would not look kindly that the North was left voiceless on Brexit. “Instead of the DUP promoting its pro-Brexit approach, the majority would be able to pass resolutions” for the benefit of the North had the Assembly been up and running, he said.

But Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “You can meet the DUP until the cows come home but unless there is a real pressure on them to do business they are not going to do business.”

The Taoiseach said it was regrettable the Executive and Assembly had not been in operation for the past two years, but the parties “have taken decisions that largely appeal to their base”.

“They might have been more willing to think about what was best for Northern Ireland business if they had been in the executive rather than taking decisions that derive from party policy.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times