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Monday 18 December 2017

Leo warns of 'red-line issues' as May bids to break Brexit impasse

Theresa May has reworked the text of her Brexit document
Theresa May has reworked the text of her Brexit document

Theresa May will today provide the Irish Government with a new text aimed at resolving the impasse over a Brexit deal.

During a 15-minute phone call with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the embattled British Prime Minister said that, having consulted with the DUP and officials in London, she was preparing fresh language for the document.

Mr Varadkar said he would review the wording with an "open mind" but that "red-line issues" adopted by Ireland remained.

"The room to manoeuvre is small," he said, but added he believed Ms May was "negotiating in good faith".

Following a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the Taoiseach adopted a diplomatic tone in a clear attempt to calm the friction which has developed between Dublin, Belfast and London.

He warned that the Government was not so much concerned that a border would have to be erected on the day after Brexit, but that a "creeping border" would develop over time. He said the language was not a major problem for Ireland but the outcome was.

"I think the risk is over a number of years," Mr Varadkar said, making the case for regulatory alignment.

He said the laws in Republic and the North did not have to be similar on everything but did need to be "sufficiently" aligned so that a "border by stealth" didn't develop.

"It's not an attempt in some ways to impose [the] same laws on both sides of the Border," he said.

Mr Varadkar also urged the UK to adopt a similar approach for England, Scotland and Wales.

He repeated that Ireland had no hidden agenda but said he wanted "normal business and normal people to continue their normal lives".

Asked to respond to DUP leader Arlene Foster's claim that Dublin blocked Ms May from showing the party the text of Monday's deal, Mr Varadkar said: "I know it's not true."

He added that the accusation made no sense since the UK government would not take instructions from Dublin, adding that he "won't be accepting any provocation from anyone on any of these matters".

Rift

The Taoiseach said he wanted to work with Ms May to repair the rift which had opened up in Anglo-Irish relations since the Brexit vote.

"I wouldn't like to be the Taoiseach, and I know she wouldn't want to be the prime minister, that began the unravelling of all that progress that has been made in the past 20 years," he said.

Mark Rutte said the Netherlands fully backed the Irish position and would continue to do so for as long as it took to get a deal, even if that meant delaying progress into the new year.

"I hate Brexit from every angle. I don't understand it," he said.

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