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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier during a press conference at Dundalk Institute of Technology, April 2018.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier during a press conference at Dundalk Institute of Technology, April 2018.

Varadkar to meet Michel Barnier in Dublin for Brexit talks ahead of EU summit

Barnier arrives in Ireland ahead of this Wednesday’s European Council meeting.
Apr 8th 2019, 7:47 AM 8,882 31

EUROPEAN UNION CHIEF Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his team will travel to Dublin later today to hold talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 

Barnier arrives in Ireland ahead of this Wednesday’s European Council meeting which will decide if the UK will be granted a further extension.

The bloc agreed last month to postpone Brexit day, originally set for 29 March, and set 12 April as the new deadline under certain conditions.

Britain has until Friday to approve the existing withdrawal agreement, to change course and seek a further delay to Brexit, or to crash out of the EU without an agreement.

May has asked the remaining EU countries for another postponement that would extend to 30 June, hoping to secure an alternative deal from the opposition negotiations and Parliament in a matter of weeks.

Other European leaders are expected to respond to the delay request during Wednesday’s summit in Brussels. 

According to the Department of An Taoiseach, the main purpose of Barnier’s visit is to show solidarity with Ireland, similar to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit last Thursday. 

Barnier is believed to be interested in the Taoiseach’s views in advance of this week’s European Council meeting.

Varadkar has indicated that he is open to an extension for the UK but it would need to be accompanied by a plan that doesn’t focus on renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement but rather on its future relationships.

At government buildings later today, Barnier will hold talks with Varadkar, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to take stock of developments in London as well as looking at the extent of Ireland’s no deal preparations, according to a government spokesperson.

‘We need to get a deal over the line’ 

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday conceded that concluding a Brexit deal with the main opposition will need “compromise on both sides” as she faced criticism for being inflexible.

The embattled leader opened negotiations this week with the Labour Party in a bid to end months of political crisis over her divorce deal struck with European leaders last year but repeatedly rejected by MPs.

However, after several days of talks, Labour complained May’s team were rigid over her plan, while the talks sparked fury among some Conservatives who detest involving leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“We need to get a deal over the line and that’s why we’ve been looking for new ways to find an agreement in parliament – and that means cross-party talks,” May said in a video recorded at her country retreat Chequers.

There’s a lot of things on which I disagree with the Labour Party on policy issues but on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on… so we’re talking.

On the prospects of reaching a deal, the prime minister added: “It’ll mean compromise on both sides.”

May will head to the EU summit Wednesday seeking to secure another Brexit extension, until June 30.

EU members, who must unanimously back any further delay, are growing increasingly impatient at the dysfunction in Westminster and want a clear plan to resolve it.

Depending on what May proposes, they could offer just a shorter postponement – or a longer period of up to a year.

‘Prepared to move’ 

Negotiations between May’s government and Labour are set to resume this week after a weekend of exchanges “clarifying our position”, according to shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey.

One of the Labour team in the talks, she told the BBC the lack of compromise so far was “disappointing” but the mood was “quite positive and hopeful”.

“We are currently waiting for the government to come back to us now to state whether they are prepared to move on any of their red lines,” Long Bailey said.

Labour is pushing for a much closer post-Brexit alliance with the EU, including participation in a customs union.

May has previously dismissed the idea because it bars Britain from striking its own trade deals around the world.

Andrea Leadsom, a senior Brexiteer in her divided cabinet, said the government was talking to Labour “through gritted teeth”.

She would not confirm if senior Tory eurosceptics would now accept a customs union, and hinted she would back a no-deal departure over a long delay.

“For me, whatever we deliver, it has to be Brexit,” she told the BBC.

With reporting from © – AFP 2019

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