Taoiseach sturgeon 758a4449 905719071

Extension needs a ‘purpose’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed in late May the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to Farmleigh House, the official state guest residence. In subsequent talks, the two leaders discussed Brexit and political developments in the wake of the European election. EAMONN FARRELL/ROLLINGNEWS.IE

By Anthony Neeson

EU leaders would be reluctant to give Britain another extension to facilitate further Brexit negotiations, according to the Taoiseach.

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The UK have been granted an extension until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement on their withdrawal. The new leader of the Conservative Party – and hence the new British Prime Minister – will take up his role at the end of July.

While Ireland is concerned at the prospect of a no-deal Brexit – something which both Tory leadership contenders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, have not ruled out – the Taoiseach said there would need to be a purpose for any future extension, is it was sought.

“I certainly wouldn’t rule it out and from Ireland’s point of view, we would be as facilitative to the UK as is possible but I think a lot of other countries have become very frustrated at these rolling extensions,” he said.

“So if there was an extension, it would have to be for a particular purpose, not for renegotiations, not for indicative votes [in the House of Commons] but in the context perhaps, if there were to be a general election in the UK or something like that but we are getting ahead of ourselves there.”

On Tuesday of this week Tánaiste Simon Coveney brought to Cabinet a detailed update on Ireland’s contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Writing in the Irish Times Mr Coveney said the chances of a disorderly Brexit "have never been higher”.

He added: “The backstop is a creative, negotiated solution to protect Northern Ireland, the part of these islands that will be most damaged by a no-deal Brexit, and in turn the peace process.

“It recognises the uniqueness of Northern Ireland. It is an insurance policy and we hope it doesn’t need to be used. But the backstop gives us certainty now, certainty that is essential to protect stability on this island."

Separately, former British government Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon MP said that negotiations with the EU could be completed in “the next three months”.

“We have got three months to do this with a fresh approach,” he told the BBC. “We need some alternative arrangements for Northern Ireland – some of that technology is already in place – we need the right to exit the backstop if the negotiations fail, we need some improvements to the political declaration.

“These aren’t the biggest things, but what they do require is some optimism and ambition and above all some energy.

“We will have a fresh team, a fresh prime minister and there is no reason at all why this can’t be done in the next three months.”