Sunday

17th Dec 2017

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.

Brexit: EU trade talks to start in April

Talks on future trade relations to start mid-April, as Brussels waits for London to say what sort of relationship it wants, but last week's deal now 'Davis-proofed'.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states