Varadkar has bags ‘packed’ should further Brexit summit be needed

Taoiseach agrees to Tusk request to approve Brexit extension for UK until January 31st

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned TDs that the current phase of Brexit was only the beginning of a process. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned TDs that the current phase of Brexit was only the beginning of a process. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that his bags are packed for an emergency summit in Brussels early next week to agree a Brexit extension for the UK until January 31st.

Mr Varadkar stressed, however, that if the European Union agrees to move the deadline from October 31st into next year, the UK would be able to leave earlier if it ratifies the withdrawal agreement before the three month period ends.

Speaking in the Dáil about the prospects of an emergency summit, Mr Varadkar said: “My bags are always packed for Brussels and packed they are again.”

He said that if EU member states agree unanimously to the proposal by Donald Tusk – who heads the European Council, the group of EU leaders – to grant the UK’s request for a three-month extension, the move could be made by a “written procedure”.

However, he said, if there is no agreement, EU leaders would have to meet again in Brussels to discuss the issue and come to a decision.

“If there is consensus, we can do this by written procedure without having to have another meeting of European Council,” Mr Varadkar said. “If there is not a consensus, then we will have to convene another meeting of the European Council, possibly next Monday, maybe even on Friday, to discuss whether or not to grant an extension for how long and under what conditions to the UK.

“The Irish Government has always said that we want to avoid the risk of no-deal, either happening by consequence or accident, and that is the approach that will be taken to this.”

Benn Act

British prime minister Boris Johnson reluctantly requested an extension under the terms of the Benn Act, passed by MPs to try to reduce the chances of the UK leaving the bloc without a deal, but he has told EU leaders he does not want them to grant the request. However, Mr Tusk has said he will ask EU leaders to approve the extension.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil said that he had agreed to Mr Tusk’s request but as yet there was no agreement among the 27 EU member states on the issue. It is believed that French president Emmanuel Macron has raised objections to the three-month extension.

Mr Tusk spoke by telephone to Mr Varadkar and the two noted that it would still be possible for the UK to leave before January 31st next should the withdrawal agreement be ratified in advance of that date, according to a statement from Government Buildings.

Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee said that there had not been any “counter-proposal” or any conditions suggested for the further Brexit extension.

Government sources said it was likely to be Thursday or Friday before there was clarity on the way forward.

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said that a “flextension, not going beyond” January 31st “is the only way forward”.

David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, said it was “advisable . . . that the European Council should accept this extension. This extension will allow the United Kingdom to clarify its position and the European Parliament to exercise its role”.

Mr Varadkar also warned TDs that the current phase of Brexit was only the beginning of a process.

“Brexit will go on for a very long time,” he said. “When we get through this withdrawal phase, the next phase is the future relationship, which is going to be just as important to Ireland in many ways.

“We will have resolved the issues in respect of avoiding a hard border but we will not have resolved the issues relating to east-west trade. That is going to be the next phase of negotiations, assuming we get through this phase in the next couple of weeks or even months. ”