BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders are losing patience with Britain and will neither allow a further delay to Brexit to continue negotiations with London nor change the divorce deal, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar arrives at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 20, 2019. Julien Warnard/Pool via REUTERS
EU leaders have so far granted two delays, pushing Britain’s exit from the European Union beyond an original March 29 date to October 31 at present.
“While I have endless patience, some of my colleagues have lost patience quite frankly with the UK and there’s enormous hostility to any further extension,” Varadkar said. A delay would only be possible if Britain sought to hold a general election or a second referendum, he added.
“What won’t be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes. The time for that is long since past.”
Varadkar told reporters before a meeting of EU leaders that they had agreed to stick to a common line and not to reopen negotiations on Britain’s EU withdrawal agreement, a view backed by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
“If they choose Boris Johnson he will have to deal with us on the agreement we have done with Theresa May,” Bettel said.
A number of the candidates seeking to take over from British Prime Minister Theresa May have insisted that they will seek to renegotiate and, in particular, demand changes to the Irish “backstop” – a guarantee to ensure no return of extensive border checks between EU state Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson, the lead candidate to take over as British Prime Minister said in a debate on Monday that the Irish border issue could be solved during a period of transition, while Britain sorts out future EU relations.
“There is no withdrawal agreement without a backstop and there is no implementation period without a withdrawal agreement,” he said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also insisted the Irish backstop had to remain in the withdrawal agreement and could not be a temporary arrangement.
“Why would the UK agree to a time limit to the backstop? Because it would mean the end of the Good Friday agreement in three, four or five years time,” Rutte said of the sensitive peace deal that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Daphne Psaledakis and Alissa De Carbonnel; Editing by Andrew Heavens