Varad­kar says Brexit deal pos­si­ble but not guar­an­teed in next few weeks

The Irish Times - - Home News - HARRY MCGEE and ADRIAN DAR­BYSHIRE Isle of Man

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar has said a suc­cess­ful out­come to Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions by Christ­mas is “more likely than not”.

In one of his most con­fi­dent as­sess­ments of the process to date, the Taoiseach spoke of a deal be­ing pos­si­ble, but not guar­an­teed, in the next few weeks.

Speak­ing at the British-Ir­ish Coun­cil meet­ing in the Isle of Man yes­ter­day, Mr Varad­kar also said that the views of all par­ties and in­ter­ested or­gan­i­sa­tions in the North should be con­sid­ered, not just those of the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party (DUP).

How­ever, in a press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the sum­mit, Mr Varad­kar did add a few caveats to his as­sess­ment. “I think it’s more likely than not that we will be able to agree an agree­ment in the next few weeks, be­fore the end of the year. But lots of things can go wrong and even if we can agree be­fore the end of year, bear in mind what’s agreed will have to be rat­i­fied [by] West­min­ster and also by the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment,” he said.

Re­la­tion­ship

“And even when all that is done, then we be­gin talks on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship. There’s no clean break here, this could go on for a very long time.”

Speak­ing on the back­stop – a mech­a­nism to main­tain a free-flow­ing bor­der even if a wider trade deal fails to ma­te­ri­alise – he said the most im­por­tant ob­jec­tive was to give ev­ery­one in North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land the as­sur­ance that a hard bor­der will not de­velop.

Im­por­tant

Re­fer­ring to the DUP, he said it was im­por­tant to lis­ten to its point of view but added: “The only thing I would say is it is very im­por­tant we lis­ten to the voice of North­ern Ire­land, we lis­ten to all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, we should lis­ten to farm­ers, fish­er­men, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, trade unions and civil so­ci­ety.

“If we do that and lis­ten to the voice of North­ern Ire­land as a whole that will help us to come to an agree­ment.”

Oth­ers present at the meet­ing were se­nior British cab­i­net mem­ber David Lid­ing­ton; Scot­tish first min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon; Car­wyn Jones of the Welsh gov­ern­ment, Guernsey deputy Gavin St Pier and sen­a­tor John Le Fon­dré of Jersey.

The sum­mit came as British prime min­is­ter Theresa May faced a po­ten­tial rift with the DUP over the con­tents of a leaked let­ter that ap­pears to sug­gest she would sign up to a “back­stop to the back­stop” that would mean a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea with North­ern Ire­land in the EU sin­gle mar­ket reg­u­la­tory regime.

Asked whether the North­ern Ire­land back­stop would or would not fea­ture in any with­drawal agree­ment, Mr Lid­ing­ton said: “We don’t com­ment on al­leged leaked doc­u­ments but the po­si­tion re­mains as it has al­ways been. We are work­ing with the com­mis­sion to de­liver on the com­mit­ments made in the joint re­port on De­cem­ber 2017. That means all the var­i­ous com­mit­ments made in that re­port.

“And the prime min­is­ter has al­ways been very clear that we won’t ac­cept some­thing that in­volves carv­ing out North­ern Ire­land from the rest of the UK.”

British prime min­is­ter Theresa May faces a po­ten­tial rift with the DUP

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