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One long extension for Brexit better than lots of short ones, says Leo

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Leo Varadkar favours a longer delay than Theresa May

Leo Varadkar favours a longer delay than Theresa May

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Leo Varadkar favours a longer delay than Theresa May

A longer Brexit extension might make more sense than a series of short delays, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach said no one wanted a no-deal scenario next week, but reiterated that a situation of "rolling cliff edges" was not favourable either.

It comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk seeking an extension to June 30, with the option to leave earlier if her Withdrawal Agreement was ratified.

This would replace the current agreed leaving date of April 12.

Uncertainty

"None of us want a no deal next week; we certainly don't want it in Ireland, I know the UK doesn't want it and Europe doesn't want it either," the Taoiseach said at an event in Limerick.

"But we also want to avoid rolling extensions where there is an extension every couple of weeks or every couple of months because that just adds to the uncertainty for citizens, for businesses and for farmers.

"So perhaps a longer extension might make more sense."

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Theresa May

Theresa May

REUTERS

Theresa May

Asked about suggestions that a flexible extension might be offered to the UK as an alternative, Mr Varadkar replied: "All these things are possible."

It is thought Mr Tusk is planning to propose a "long but flexible extension" of a year, which could be shortened if Britain ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Taoiseach said European leaders would be analysing all the options on the table at the special EU summit in Brussels next week.

"We want to avoid no deal but also we don't want to have a rolling cliff edge where there is an extension every month or two because Brexit is causing enormous uncertainty," he added.

He said an end needed to be put to the uncertainty.

Meanwhile, other EU leaders have said Mrs May had not convinced them to delay the departure beyond next week.

The British leader wrote to Brussels, asking the EU to postpone Britain's exit, with a deadline of June 30 and a possibility to leave earlier if a Withdrawal Agreement was reached.

But EU leaders have insisted that she must first show a viable plan to secure such an agreement in the deadlocked UK parliament.

The opposition Labour Party, to which Mrs May turned reluctantly after failing three times to get her deal passed, said the government "has not offered real change or compromise" in three days of talks.

"We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal," a statement said.

Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said his party wanted the talks to go on, but the deadlock made it less likely that Mrs May would have a clear divorce strategy to show EU leaders on Wednesday, let alone get them to accept her departure date.

Any extension would require unanimous approval but could come with conditions as countries grow weary of Britain's Brexit indecision.

"If we are not able to understand the reason why the UK is asking for an extension, we cannot give a positive answer," said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted: "This playing for time must end."

Deep divisions in Mrs May's party and government, and in Labour, have led to votes in parliament in which scenarios ranging from abandoning the EU with no transition period to cancelling Brexit have all been defeated.

Last Friday, Mrs May did the unthinkable by asking Labour to negotiate with her on a deal that might work for both.

Her letter to Mr Tusk, proposing the June 30 delay, accepted that Britain might have to hold European Parliament elections on May 23, which she had hoped to avoid. She had asked for an extension to the same date two weeks ago, but was rejected.