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Varadkar and May speak by phone ahead of draft EU withdrawal document on Brexit

The draft document, set to give a legal basis to last December’s preliminary agreement, will be published on Wednesday.

Brexit Source: PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May this evening spoke to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar by phone ahead of the pending publication of the draft Brexit legal text.

The call, which was requested by an increasingly under-pressure May, saw both leaders agree that the various Brexit options agreed upon last December should be ‘examined in detail’.

However, Varadkar also reiterated the necessity that Option C of las December’s joint report, the option known as the ‘backstop’ facility which would see a commitment to no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland should the other two options fail, be ‘spelled out’ in the forthcoming draft legal text.

That text is set to be published on Wednesday.

The backstop is proving to be a major political headache for May. Should it come into force she risks enraging the DUP, on whom her fragile government wholly depends, as it would see, to all intents and purposes, Northern Ireland stay within the customs union and the EU single market post Brexit, which contradicts May’s commitment to the unionist party that no new regulatory barriers will be placed between the UK and the North.

10 Michel Barnier and Simon Coveney, pictured earlier today

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney this afternoon met with chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, a meeting that saw Coveney declare that, ahead of the publication of the draft text, “the Irish government and the task force are of one mind”.

He said that the text “will be faithful and true to the political agreement that was made in December”, but added that the document itself will “be negotiated over time”.

“Our preference will be to try and solve a lot of the Irish border issues and Irish issues through option A which  hopefully we will hear an awful lot more about on Friday from the British prime minister,” he said.

Coveney added that “we are not looking to try and put pressure on anybody”.

“We are simply looking to translate into a clear legal language a text that has already been agreed to politically before Christmas,” he said.

That has to happen at some point in time otherwise you can’t have a basis for a negotiated agreement on a withdrawal treaty.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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