25th Mar 2018

Irish PM 'surprised and disappointed' by Brexit setback

  • Irish PM Varadkar said Dublin already had an agreement with the UK and the EU over Brexit (Photo: Annika Haas (EU2017EE))

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said Monday evening (4 December) he was "surprised and disappointed" with the lack of a deal on Brexit divorce issues in Brussels.

British prime minister Theresa May had met for lunch with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier earlier the same day to hammer out the final details of an agreement on divorce issues.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

One of those outstanding issues was the future Irish border, with the Republic of Ireland seeking British assurances that Northern Ireland will continue to align itself with EU regulations after Brexit to avoid a hard border on the island.

But in what appeared to be a last-minute turnaround, the expected agreement fell through due to fierce opposition by May's allies, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Varadkar said Monday evening at a press conference in Dublin that a text had been agreed in the morning by Ireland, the UK, and the EU Brexit task force on regulatory alignment in Northern Ireland.

"It is evident that things broke down during the lunch in Brussels. The [British] prime minister has asked for more time," Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach said the text agreed on Monday morning had provided the necessary assurances for Ireland, and added that so far he has received no request to change the wording.

Varadkar refused to assign blame to the DUP or to May, saying: "I don't think it would be useful to point fingers at any group of people."

He said he was still hopeful of an agreement by next week's summit where EU leaders will decide whether to give the green light for the next phase of talks between the UK and the EU - on a post-Brexit transition deal and on future relations - if there is enough progress on the divorce issues.

"We want to move onto phase two, that's what people need," Varadkar said.

He did not rule out a possible extraordinary EU summit in January to deal with the issue, however.

In an effort to quell accusations that his government wanted to pull Northern Ireland closer to the Republic of Ireland, Varadkar said: "I want to offer reassurance that there's no hidden agenda here, our only guiding light is the Good Friday agreement [Northern Ireland's peace accord]."

Juncker and May both said they were confident that an agreement can be reached by the EU summit next week.

But time is running out for member states to agree on the guidelines that will shape the second phase of talks, expected to be adopted by EU leaders next week.

European Council chief Donald Tusk tweeted after meeting May on Monday that he "was ready to present draft EU27 guidelines tomorrow for Brexit talks on transition and future."

He noted that the UK and the Commission had "asked for more time". He added that "it is now getting very tight" but that an agreement at the summit on 14 December "is still possible".

EU-27 diplomats will meet on Wednesday, while member states' EU policy chiefs, so-called sherpas, will meet next Monday to work on the guidelines if there is an agreement between the EU and the UK.

May travels to Brussels without Ireland deal

As the British prime minister arrives to present her proposals to meet the "absolute deadline" in Brexit talks, she has yet to secure an agreement with Ireland.

Tusk to show support for Ireland as Brexit deadline looms

The UK offered to pay almost everything the EU has asked for, leaving the Irish border the key issue in Brexit talks. In an attempt to isolate the Irish position, the UK hopes to achieve "sufficient progress" next week.

EU sets Brexit 'deadline of deadlines'

The EU will not have enough time to prepare for launching the second phase of Brexit talks at the summit next week, if the UK government does not come to an agreement on the divorce soon.

Deal reached in Brexit divorce negotiations

Juncker and May announced in Brussels on Friday morning that Brexit negotiators have reached an agreement on the divorce issues, and the Commission recommends to move talks onto the second phase.

EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

EU leaders at a Brussels summit demand social networks and digital platforms guarantee transparency and privacy. Their call comes amid growing backlash against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica over voter manipulation.

'Decisive step' in Brexit ahead of EU summit

The UK and the EU have reached a legal agreement on citizens' rights and the financial settlement, but with still little progress on the future of the Irish border.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Nordic states discuss targeted Russia sanctions
  2. Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case
  3. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  4. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  5. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  6. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  7. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  8. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica