Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
By Anthony Neeson
With uncertainty surrounding Tuesday’s House of Commons Brexit vote, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it’s now too late for Britain to tell the European Union what it wants.
With speculation that British Prime Minister Theresa May will once more postpone a vote on her Brexit deal after weekend talks with Brussels ended in deadlock, there have been suggestions that the British government may replace the vote with one that allows MPs to show the type of Brexit that they would prefer.
At the weekend, the EU offered to make the backstop apply only to Northern Ireland. However, the British government and DUP rejected that suggestion.
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Speaking to reporters, Varadkar said: “I do hear some suggestions that the votes may be called off in favor of a new vote as a result of what the House of Commons would tell the European Union what they want.
“That really misses the point. We’re two and a half years, if not three years, since the referendum. It is far too late for the United Kingdom to tell us what they want. The withdrawal agreement requires a compromise and this withdrawal agreement is already a compromise.
“Obviously the first step on Tuesday is the next vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons. That may pass or it may not pass. I can’t predict the outcome of that vote but if it doesn’t pass I understand there will be a vote on Wednesday to take no-deal off the table and potentially a vote on Thursday then around an extension.”
With Brexit day March 29 looming large, the taoiseach said that if there is going to be an extension – to allow more time for negotiations – it needed to be an extension with a purpose.
“Nobody across the European Union wants to see a rolling cliff edge where tough decisions just get put off until the end of April and then to the end of May and then maybe until the end of July.
“The uncertainty around Brexit is already worrying citizens. It is damaging business confidence, it is affecting our agriculture in particular.
“It will affect other industries as well as the week goes on. I really think if there is going to be an extension it has to be with a purpose, that extension.”
He added: “The 29th March is a self-imposed deadline and the United Kingdom parliament can take the threat of no deal – for Ireland, for Northern Ireland, for Britain, for Europe – off the table at any time.”