Leo Varadkar still hopeful for a deal on Brexit

By Aoife Moore, Press Association
"I think it's important that we allow the British political system the time to make that decision," he said.

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar has said that he still hopeful for a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Commentators said on Monday that the British Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement looked likely to fail in the House of Commons vote on Tuesday, but the Taoiseach refused to comment on what he thought should happen next.

“I think it’s important that we allow the British political system the time to make that decision,” he said.

“I hope the vote will be in favour, that the Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified by Westminster and we can get straight into talks on the future relationship.

“It is a matter for them and out of respect for their democratic institutions we should allow them to have their vote tomorrow and we’ll reassess.

“I don’t think it would be in Ireland’s interest for me to be interfering in their internal politics.”

Mr Varadkar added he had “no desire to threaten the union”.

Mr Varadkar added that although he remained optimistic, his government is making preparations for a No-Deal Brexit.

“We’ll have further preparations at cabinet tomorrow for no-deal Brexit, I still think a no-deal Brexit is unlikely, but we need to be prepared for it nonetheless,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I shouldn’t pretend to anyone that any country can be fully prepared for Brexit, there is no good Brexit and a no-deal Brexit will have a very significant impact on Ireland, Britain and Europe.

“We will be prepared, but I’m not going to say to you that everything is going to be fine, of course there will be interruptions and negative impact but we’ll be as prepared as we possibly can be.”

A letter containing assurances from the presidents of the European Council and European Commission was published ahead of Theresa May’s statement to the Commons on Monday.

Mrs May said the letter contained “valuable new clarifications and assurances to put before the House of Commons, including on getting our future relationship in place rapidly so the backstop should never need to be used”.

She added: “We now have a commitment from the EU that work on our new relationship can begin as soon as possible after the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement in advance of March 29, and we have an explicit commitment that this new relationship does not need to replicate the backstop in any respect whatsoever.”

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he hoped the letter from the EU would provide reassurance and clarity to MPs in Parliament as they prepare for Tuesday’s Commons vote.

“People shouldn’t feel threatened by it (the backstop), some people have painted the backstop into something that it’s not,” he said.

“This week is going to be a really significant few days. This is a time where Ireland has to hold its nerve. We’re most impacted by Brexit of all the EU states.

“We need to stay close to the British government and EU partners – but shouldn’t respond in knee-jerked or any panicked way.”