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Varadkar says Johnson told him he's confident of getting MPs to back Brexit deal

Speculation is mounting that a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations is imminent.

Updated Oct 15th 2019, 6:42 PM

boris Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar pictured in Cheshire last week. Source: Taoiseach's Office/PA Wire/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told him he is confident of getting MPs to back a new Brexit deal.

The admission comes amid mounting speculation that a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations is imminent.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Varadkar said: “Initial indications are that we’re making progress, that the negotiations are moving in the right direction, but whether we’ll be able to conclude the revised Withdrawal Agreement … in time for the (EU) summit on Thursday that’s, as of now, unclear.”

Varadkar stated that when he met Johnson last week, the prime minister said if the UK and EU could come to an agreement “he was confident that he would be able to get it through the House of Commons”.

However, the Taoiseach added: “But of course there are a few hurdles between now and then.”

Varadkar said it’s too early to predict if Britain will seek another extension to leaving the European Union.

We’re just going to have to see how the next few days develop. If we can get to an agreement on Thursday or Friday, and if the House of Commons is able to vote in favour of that agreement on Saturday, it may not be necessary to even consider an extension, but it’s too early to make that assessment at this stage.

DUP 

Speaking to RTÉ One’s Six One this evening, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that her party wants a deal “but it has to be a deal that respects the constitutional and economic place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom”. 

“And if there is to be consent, there has to be consent which is in accordance with the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement. In other words, there has to be consent from the nationalist community and the unionist is community,” Foster said. 

“When I hear talk of a Northern Ireland backstop … I think things are very far off the mark in terms of all of that, but it is important that we do work together to get a deal, and we will be working, certainly, with the government to try and make that happen.” 

When asked if the DUP would support a deal that would put a border in the Irish sea, Foster said “it would be wrong to try and get into the modalities of all of this now”. 

“It is important that we have a deal that respects Northern Ireland’s constitutional position as per the Belfast Agreement within the United Kingdom, and a deal to respect the economic integrity of the UK single market as well,” she said.

Downing Street earlier said negotiations remain ongoing amid reports Johnson is closing in on a new deal after giving significant ground to the EU over the Irish border.

The Guardian has quoted senior sources on both sides as saying that a draft treaty could be published tomorrow morning after the UK agreed in principle there will be a customs border in the Irish Sea.

However, Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Talks remain constructive but there is more work still to do.”

Downing Street sources downplayed the chances of a breakthrough being imminent, and an EU official also stressed that “talks are ongoing”.

Contains reporting from PA 

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Órla Ryan

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