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Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson spoke by phone this evening and hope to meet this week

Tusk made his comments on Twitter.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Oct 8th 2019, 6:15 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR spoke to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening.

A government spokesperson said:

“Both sides strongly reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal. They hope to meet in person later this week.”

Speaking at a Fine Gael fundraiser in Dublin at the weekend, Varadkar said he was seeking a meeting with Johnson this week. 

He said “time is tight” for a Brexit deal to be struck ahead of a European Council summit on 17 and 18 October.

The Taoiseach said he still believed a deal could be reached.

“Time is tight. We have a European summit on the 17th of October and it’s not reasonable to expect 27 or 28 heads of Government to sign off on something that they only see the night before or a few days before,” he said, adding:

There are a lot of countries, for example, including our own where there’s a degree of parliamentary scrutiny. So timelines are tight.

But speaking on RTÉ News at 9pm, Varadkar was less optimistic, saying that he believed it would be “very difficult” to secure a deal by next week.

“Essentially what the United Kingdom has done is repudiated the deal that we negotiated in good faith with Prime Minister May’s government over two years,” he said.

“And they’ve sort of put half of that back on the table and saying that’s a concession, and of course it isn’t really.”

‘Blame game’

The phone call this evening comes after Johnson was accused of engaging in “stupid blame game” after Downing Street claimed the EU had made a Brexit deal “impossible”.

Downing Street sources claimed German chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear that an agreement was now “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

Following a telephone call with Boris Johnson, she was said to have insisted Ireland must have a veto over Northern Ireland leaving the customs union.

The claims provoked a furious response from European Council president Donald Tusk who accused him of jeopardising the future security of the EU and the UK.

“Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” he tweeted.

“At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people.

“You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that there had been a “frank exchange” of views with the German chancellor, but refused to be drawn any further on the “source” claims.

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said a UK government willing to work with the EU is needed to finalise a Brexit deal. 

The minister said it was “hard to disagree” with a sentiment from President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Twitter who said the UK doesn’t want a deal, an extension or to revoke the referendum.

Tweet by @Simon Coveney Source: Simon Coveney/Twitter

Coveney said Tusk’s statement reflected the enormity of what is at stake.

The Spectator reported yesterday that a Number 10 source said that “Varadkar doesn’t want to negotiate” and that the Taoiseach has “gone very cold” since the Benn Act passed last month. 

“As things stand, Dublin will do nothing, hoping we offer more, then at the end of this week they may say ‘OK, let’s do a Northern Ireland only backstop with a time limit’, which is what various players have been hinting at, then we’ll say No, and that will probably be the end,” the unnamed source allegedly said in the piece. 

With reporting by PA and Stephen McDermott.

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