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Varadkar to meet Merkel and Macron as Brexit uncertainty ticks on

The Taoiseach will travel to Paris on Tuesday to meet Macron, while on Thursday, Merkel will travel to Dublin.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR will have two very important meetings with French President, Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel next week. 

The Taoiseach will travel to Paris on Tuesday to meet Macron, while on Thursday, Merkel will travel to Dublin.

The two meetings come at a key point in Brexit, where questions hang over what route Westminster will choose to take. Today, the House of Commons will debate and vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time.

Varadkar’s meetings with Macron and Merkel will focus on current EU issues in particular latest developments on Brexit, with the Irish government stating that such important bilateral meetings being held at this time is “reassuring from an Irish perspective” and “shows solidarity with Ireland during these uncertain times”. 

It is understood the discussions will centre on Brexit, with Ireland standing firm that the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation. 

No-deal scenario 

The Taoiseach is also expected to give his views on both a deal and no-deal outcomes, with a particular focus during the discussions on a post-Brexit scenario. 

There will also be talks on the Single Market, the EU Commission and the European budget. 

In a statement announcing the meetings, the Department of An Taoiseach said:

These two meetings reflect the deep and warm relations Ireland enjoys with both France and Germany, including the support shown to Ireland during the Brexit negotiations.
Both engagements are part of the Government’s ongoing engagement with EU partners, including strengthening relations and alliances with other Member States.

Speaking ahead of the meetings, the Taoiseach said:

“I look forward to travelling to Paris to meet President Macron, and to welcoming Chancellor Merkel to Dublin.

“Both leaders have been strong and consistent allies of Ireland in responding to the unique challenges we face from Brexit. I will again express the Government’s gratitude for their continuing solidarity. We will take stock of the latest developments on Brexit when we meet, efforts to secure ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and No Deal planning.

‘Strengthening relations’ 

While the Taoiseach said he meets with both the President and Chancellor at the European Council in Brussels, these bilateral meetings are an “important opportunity for an in-depth and one-to-one exchange on how to further strengthen our relations away from the bustle of the European Council”.

Pressure mounting? 

While the Irish government maintains these meetings are about showing solidarity, there have been reports that Merkel is piling on the pressure over Ireland’s no-deal Brexit plans. 

The Taoiseach has denied this, but has admitted there will have to be “difficult discussions” with the European Commission in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

Varadkar said that he was “not under any pressure from Chancellor Merkel or anybody else from this issue”.

“What Chancellor Merkel or President Macron would do is ask reasonable questions.”

The protection of the Single Market has been flagged as one of the talking points during the bilateral meetings next week. 

Speaking about the issue last week, Varadkar said the idea of protecting the single market “isn’t some nasty EU regulation”.

“It’s our single market. We do need to protect it,” he said, adding: 

There’ll be consequences to it but it’s not going to be a hard border, physical infrastructure, checks. It’s not going to be that.

When asked about the speculation that Merkel is mounting pressure on the Irish government, and could use next week’s visit to state that the danger that the backstop insistence could result in hard border, a government spokesperson said they “wouldn’t take that seriously”, adding that such notions are largely coming from British voices. 

As Brexit uncertainty ticks on, all eyes will be on the Taoiseach to reiterate the Irish government’s standpoint that the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, cannot be reopened. 

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