Varadkar one-on-one meeting with Johnson was ‘significant risk’ – Howlin

Labour leader says Taoiseach should be ‘wary’ in Brexit negotiations with British PM

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said opposition parties had not been briefed on the pathway found during the meeting

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said opposition parties had not been briefed on the pathway found during the meeting


Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said it was a significant risk for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to hold a long one-on-one meeting with Boris Johnson last week as he has doubts the British prime minister negotiates in good faith.

“Experience will tell you to be very very wary [with Mr Johnson],” he said.

“That’s why I thought it was a significant risk for the Taoiseach to go in a room alone with him and come to an agreement.”

Mr Howlin did not say it was a wrong move on behalf of Mr Varadkar and also pointed out that the EU’s task force headed by Michel Barnier had been kept fully in the loop.

“It’s quite clear when I saw [Mr Varadkar’s] face on Thursday he believed there was a genuine pathway and he believed that the issues that had been intractable had been solved.

“Reading the body language, most of us would have said: ‘Great, we have broken this impasse.’ But we have not seen that manifested in concrete form. I would have hoped the pathway would have been set out in clear legal form,” he said.

Speaking to the media in Leinster House on Tuesday, Mr Howlin said he did not know if there was a clear pathway because Opposition parties had not been briefed by Government on the situation. He said everyone wanted a pathway to the solution.

“We are a little over two weeks away from a catastrophic outcome which would be a a hard Brexit, ” he said.

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said there was some positive mood music but added that significant gaps remained between both sides. She said it was likely the talks would continue into next week.

Referring to what might happen after that, she said: “I am cautious abut the possibility of any deal getting through the House of Commons. Even though Jacob Rees-Mogg is assuring everybody the numbers are there I certainly would not be placing all my faith in what Jacob Rees-Mogg says.”

“There’s a significant way to go with the DUP. We don’t know if new proposals going today will be a rehash of the customs arrangements proposed or will there be a brand new proposal?

“We need to see those details,” she said.

Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Féin said it was good to see discussions going on. “We have not seen exactly what the [proposals] are. Nobody wants a hard Brexit, which will be devastating for our economy.”

He was speaking to reporters ahead of his party’s motion to introduce a living wage of €12.30 an hour.