Varadkar stresses ‘limitations’ to what EU can do to help May

Taoiseach echoes frustration with British prime minister evident among other EU leaders

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that there are "limitations" to any assistance to what the EU can offer the British Prime Minister Theresa May to help her get the withdrawal treaty passed.

Mr Varadkar said that he and other EU leaders wanted to be as helpful as possible to Mrs May in her attempts to get the withdrawal treaty through Westminster, “but there are limitations to that”.

"We can't get into a situation where we're contradicting anything that is in the legal text of the treaty that's been agreed," he told a press conference after the conclusion of the EU summit in Brussels today.

Mr Varadkar said there was no agreement on what clarifications or declarations or assurances that Mrs May might want, echoing a frustration with the British prime minister evident among other EU leaders over the two-day meeting which was, once again, dominated by Brexit.

Mr Varadkar stressed the EU’s wish to help Mrs May, but added: “That is contingent on her understanding that there are limitations.”

Earlier, Mrs May acknowledged it will not be possible to reopen the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to alter the backstop provisions which have sparked mass rebellion among Conservative MPs.

She said Britain would have have talks with the EU over the coming days about how to obtain “further assurances” which might persuade MPs to back the deal.

In a press conference at the end of the European Council summit in Brussels, Mrs May said she had a "robust" discussion with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

She insisted she had been “crystal clear” about the UK’s need for firmer assurances that the backstop cannot become permanent.

Video footage of the conversation showed a clearly angry Mrs May apparently berating Mr Juncker for saying that her address to leaders of the 27 remaining states on Thursday evening had been "nebulous".

Mrs May welcomed the official conclusions issued by the EU27 which committed the EU to trying to get a post-Brexit trade deal agreed quickly enough to avoid the need for a backstop to keep the Irish border open.

“The EU is clear, as I am, that if we are going to leave with a deal, this is it,” she said.

Mrs May’s hopes of a legally binding commitment on the backstop from the EU27 were dashed on Thursday, when Mr Juncker said there could be “no real changes” to the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated over 18 months.

Meanwhile, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The last 24 hours have confirmed that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water.

“The Prime Minister has utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal. Rather than ploughing ahead and dangerously running down the clock, the Prime Minister needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control,” Mr Corbyn said. - Additional reporting PA