Leo Varadkar: EU is not facing rolling cliff-edge Brexit

By Michelle Devane, Press Association in Brussels
The Taoiseach said the choices on offer to the UK were now very obvious.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has denied the extension offered by the EU to the UK is an example of the rolling cliff-edge Brexit scenario.

Asked whether the EU was in the midst of a rolling exit, he replied: “It’s not. There won’t be further extensions.

“We’ve set out now what the timeline is and in many ways the European Union has taken control of the timeline which in the past had been set by the UK.”

Mr Varadkar made the comments at the end of the summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

The Taoiseach said the choices on offer were now “very obvious”.

“It’s this agreement; no deal; or the Parliament taking indicative votes for a much closer long-term relationship with the EU which would allow the joint political declaration aspect of the withdrawal package to be amended,” he said.

“I don’t see any other choices.”

He added: “I hope the Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified by the House of Commons. If it isn’t I imagine they’ll go on to indicative votes and that may point the way to a closer long-term relationship.”

EU leaders agreed on Thursday night to give Prime Minister Theresa May time to get the Brexit deal through the UK Parliament.

If she succeeds, the EU leaders agreed to extend the Article 50 withdrawal process until May 22 to enable the Government to get the necessary legislation through Parliament.

But if she fails to do so, the UK will have until April 12 to set out its next steps, with a longer extension on offer only if Britain takes part in European Parliament elections in May.

Mr Varadkar said it was the view of Mrs May that it would be farcical for the UK to participate in the European Parliament elections.

“(Mrs May) gave some indication in that from her point of view, there is no desire whatsoever to take part in the European elections,” he said.

“I think she feels, and most British politicians feel, it would be a farce for the UK to participate in the elections if it were to leave and that’s mainly the reason why the date of April 12 was chosen.”

Mr Varadkar added that Mrs May was confident she can win her planned upcoming vote.

“Prime Minister May feels there is a pathway to victory and getting a majority in the House of Commons, and I hope she can achieve that,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be in a better position than she is to access the parliamentary arithmetic that exists in the UK and it’s a political matter for the British Parliament.”