UK now ‘more likely’ to leave EU without a deal, says Varadkar

Taoiseach says deadlock over Border has increased the prospect of a no-deal scenario

 Leo Varadkar arrives to attend the British-Irish Council  in Guernsey. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar arrives to attend the British-Irish Council in Guernsey. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

The UK is “more likely than it was a few months ago” to leave the European Union without a deal, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the deadlock over the Irish border had increased the prospect of a no-deal scenario.

Speaking after a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Guernsey on Friday, he said: “I think it is more likely than it was a few months ago but I still don’t think it is likely.

“Ultimately it is in the interests of Ireland and in the interests of the United Kingdom and the interests of the European Union that we have an orderly Brexit and a new relationship that works for everyone.”

The Taoiseach said talks to find a resolution would “intensify” over the next couple of months.

“That’s what we are going to do over the next couple of months, really try to intensify our efforts to come to a withdrawal agreement,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said there could only be a withdrawal agreement if there was a backstop for the Irish border in it.

He added: “To be a backstop it needs to solve the problem. It needs to deal with customs and regulatory issues and it needs not to have an expiry date because the whole point of a backstop is that it doesn’t have an expiry date. “But it is also important to recognise that it is not something we ever want to have to use.”

‘Best deal possible for the UK’

The British-Irish Council brings together representatives of the Irish and British governments, the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey crown dependencies.

Speaking before the meeting, a UK government spokesman said: “When we leave the EU the whole of the UK — including Wales and Scotland — will be leaving the customs union and single market. There is no change to that position. “Leaving the customs union means for the first time in 40 years, the UK will have the freedom to strike our own trade deals.

“Our focus is on getting the best deal possible for the UK — one that allows us to take back control of our borders, laws and money.”

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said trust between Holyrood and Westminster had been “eroded” by the Brexit negotiations. She said: “Our experience in recent weeks and months around the withdrawal bill discussions have put a strain on that trust and I think inevitably have eroded it. “I am certainly very keen to see how we can rebuild it and reestablish it.” But Ms Sturgeon said “respect and consent” must be the basis of working relations.–PA