Irish PM concerned Britain set for 'terrible' Brexit miscalculation

Leo Varadkar says the divorce deal with the EU can not be renegotiated

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he is concerned by political developments in the UK. Reuters
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he is concerned by political developments in the UK. Reuters

Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned British lawmakers on Tuesday against thinking their rejection of the Brexit divorce deal negotiated with the EU means they will be given a better one.

Several candidates vying to replace UK Prime Minister Theresa May have pledged to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement her government struck with the EU, only for it to suffer three crushing defeats in Parliament.

Managing the land border between EU-member Ireland and British-run Northern Ireland, including an emergency "backstop" solution to prevent the return of Customs controls, has proven the most contentious element of the divorce deal.

"Like everyone in this House, I am a little concerned about political developments in London at present," Mr Varadkar told Ireland's Parliament as British candidates launched their Conservative Party leadership campaigns.

"I am a little concerned that some people in London seem to think the failure of the House of Commons to ratify the agreement automatically means they will get a better agreement. That is a terrible political miscalculation."

Ireland has insisted that the backstop remain a central part of the withdrawal deal, which Mr Varadkar called a finely balanced compromise that was the best deal Britain could have reached, given the limited influence of a departing country.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also repeated on Tuesday that the stalled divorce treaty would not change with the arrival of a new prime minister in London.

Mr Varadkar said Britain had made some terrible mistakes since voters decided to leave the bloc in a referendum almost three years ago.

"Some of them thought that when push came to shove, Ireland would be abandoned and EU unity would break," he said.

"They were wrong about that. I hope they are not making a further political miscalculation."

Updated: June 12, 2019 09:30 AM

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