Taoiseach: Cut Britain some slack

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is time to cut the British government some slack in order to allow them to avoid a crash-out Brexit.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said when he arrives for the EU summit in Brussels tomorrow, he will be arguing that prime minister Theresa May be given some space to seek to get approval for her deal.

Mr Varadkar also confirmed that a package of supports for Irish farmers and exporters to aid them through a no-deal Brexit was agreed by Cabinet and will be ready by next week.

He said the fund, worth hundreds of millions of Euro, is being finalised with the EU Commission as to how it will be paid for.

“We are continuing with no-deal planning. Packages are being finalised for supports for farmers, for the agri-food sector and for exporters,” he said.

“That is currently being finalised with the EU Commission and we are working out to what extent it will be funded by the EU Commission and to what extent it will be funded by borrowing on behalf of the Irish State. And we will be ready to deploy that if we need to next week, should a no-deal arise,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said his Government has always said “we’d be open to an extension if there was a purpose to it and I think it’s important that we hear from her first and we’ll respond as 27, as the European Union, in the next couple of days.”

Asked whether he believed that the French president will veto an extension, Mr Varadkar said: “No. It is my understanding, and people will know this from his public comments, that he is sceptical about an extension.

A lot of people in the European Union want this resolved. It’s been going on for over two years now. There’s a lot of frustration across the European Union.

Mr Varadkar said it is time to cut the UK government some slack.

“There is a real risk that we wish to avoid — of no-deal happening by accident despite people’s best intentions,” he said.

“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days. “

He added that the Irish Government was willing to support both of the British requests, but he reiterated that it was “not entertaining any change to the Withdrawal Agreement or the backstop”.

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