Varadkar and Johnson talk by phone and reiterate desire to reach Brexit deal

UK ‘take it or leave it’ approach to Brexit unacceptable, says Coveney

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hope to meet later this week to discuss the current Brexit impasse.

The two spoke for about 45 minutes by telephone on Tuesday afternoon and afterwards a government spokesman in Dublin said both sides “reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal.

“They hope to meet in person later this week.”

The telephone conversation between the leaders comes amid increasing tensions between the sides over the planned UK departure from the EU by October 31st.


Mr Varadkar said later he and Mr Johnson “will work until the very last moment to secure (a deal) but not at any cost”.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to secure an agreement by next week,” he said.

“If there’s no deal, the countries worst affected will be Ireland and Britain,” he added.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said earlier that the Government cannot respond to an approach from the UK government of "give us what we want or we leave with no deal" on Brexit.

Mr Coveney was responding to reports quoting allies of the British prime minister saying that the chances of a Brexit deal by next week's EU summit were dead and accusing German chancellor Angela Merkel of vetoing Britain's Brexit proposal in a telephone call with Mr Johnson.

The Tánaiste said he suspected there were “different views in the British system - some hardline, some wanting a deal” and that there were “a number of people” briefing the media in London.

“There is a lot of misinformation going around,” said Mr Coveney.

Asked about the controversy the Taoiseach said later: “I don’t play dirty, I don’t think most EU leaders do either”.

The Government wanted to contribute “in a constructive way” to find a deal “that protects everyone” but could not support the choice between Mr Johnson’s deal or no deal where “everybody gets damaged,” Mr Coveney told reporters at a Budget 2020 press conference.

He believed that Monday night’s briefing by a Downing Street source to The Spectator magazine, which claimed the Taoiseach did not want to negotiate on a deal, was designed to put pressure on Ireland and Mr Varadkar.

“For us, this isn’t about pressure or personalities. It’s about solving a problem, so we don’t have to deal with that problem for the foreseeable future in Irish politics if it is transferred from Westminster to politics on the island in the context of Border challenges,” said Mr Coveney.

‘Stupid blame game’

Dublin and Brussels have rejected the prime minister’s plan to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union after Brexit on the basis that it would create a customs border on the island of Ireland and that he would give the Democratic Unionist Party a veto over keeping Northern Ireland under EU regulations for goods.

The Tánaiste said EU Council president Donald Tusk’s tweet accusing Mr Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game” was a “reflection of the frustration” that the British are pushing a “take it or leave it” strategy.

“If the approach from the British government is take it or leave it on the basis of the proposal coming from the British prime minister last week, then the British side must know there is not going to be a deal,” he said.

There was a concern in the EU that “the narrative seems to be leaning towards a blame game rather than actually trying to solve the issue,” he said.

It was far too enormous an issue in terms of the UK’s future relationships with the UK and Ireland “to be focusing on the politics of blame rather than actually the politics of trying to get a deal”, Mr Coveney said.

Despite the tensions between the EU and UK, the Tánaiste said the Government and EU were “working flat out” to try to achieve a deal that results in an orderly Brexit at the end of this month and he was still hopeful that a deal could be reached on “an orderly and managed Brexit.”

“But there needs to be a will on both sides to get us there,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times