Varadkar to discuss next Brexit steps with Juncker and Tusk

Few significant public developments likely until votes in the Commons on February 14th

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will travel to Brussels next week to discuss no-deal preparations and a possible package of supports for Ireland with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Varadkar will also meet with the European Council president Donald Tusk – who heads the EU's highest body, the council of heads of governments – for discussions on Brexit and the likely next steps.

In addition to Mr Varadkar’s visit to the European Commission, officials from Brussels will fly to Dublin next week for discussions with the Irish Government on no-deal preparations. It’s likely that measures to protect the single market in the event of a no-deal will be on the agenda, although both Dublin and Brussels have stressed that the commission visit to Dublin is part of a series of visits to all European capitals.

The Irish Government insists there will be no return to a hard border in the event of a no-deal but also says it will have to protect the EU single market. However, it has not, so far, said how it would achieve this.


According to a statement from Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar will “outline the work under way in Ireland and the supports that may be needed given the potential impact of a hard Brexit in Ireland.”

With Mr Tusk, the Taoiseach will “discuss the latest developments in London. Mr Varadkar will use the opportunity once again to thank the institutions, and the other member states, for their continuing support for Ireland”, the statement says.

Irish America

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney is due to travel to Washington DC next week, where he will meet a number of Irish-American politicians amid growing concern in Congress about Brexit.

On Tuesday a resolution opposing the reimposition of a hard border in Northern Ireland was introduced in the US Congress by congressman Brendan Boyle. It calls on Congress to oppose the establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Sources in Dublin and Brussels say they expect few significant public developments until further votes in the British parliament on February 14th, though there are likely to be intensive private contacts between Dublin, Brussels and London.

The mood is hardening on the EU side, however, with several senior sources adamant that there is no prospect of concessions to the British in the immediate future. EU leaders await Mrs May’s proposals on alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border, but there is little expectation that they will go beyond suggestions that have been rejected in the past.

Senior figures expect there will be no move from the EU until after EU leaders meet at the EU-Africa summit in Egypt in late February, by which time they expect matters to have evolved significantly at Westminster, sources say.

In the meantime, it’s expected that the EU focus will be on preparations for a possible no-deal outcome, rather than diplomacy to avoid it.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times