POLITICS

Juncker warns British that EU’s patience is running out

Juncker warns British that EU’s patience is running out

Varadkar will meet Macron and Merkel as May considers calling snap election in UK


Checkpoint: A woman is stopped at a mock customs post at a Border Communities Against Brexit protest in Newry, Co Down. Photo: Getty
Checkpoint: A woman is stopped at a mock customs post at a Border Communities Against Brexit protest in Newry, Co Down. Photo: Getty

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that while the EU has had a lot of patience with the UK over Brexit, patience runs out.

Mr Juncker said he would like the UK to be able to reach an agreement in the coming hours and days that could be followed.

“So far, we know what the British parliament says no to, but we don’t know what it might say yes to,” he said on Italian state TV yesterday.

His comments come as Ireland is set to face increasing pressure this week over the issue of the Border in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, amid continuing turmoil in Westminster, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party is said to be engaged in “sensible and pragmatic” preparations for a snap election.

However, with more indicative votes to take place in the House of Commons as early as today, former UK prime minister John Major warned a general election would “solve nothing”.

He claimed the establishment of a cross-party government would be in the “national interest” and help resolve the Brexit crisis.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week and the leaders of the EU’s two remaining superpowers are expected to seek assurances on protecting the integrity of the single market.

A senior ally of Ms Merkel, Manfred Weber, said yesterday Europe wants to avoid a hard Border in Ireland but must assess how to protect the single market in the case of a crash-out Brexit.

Mr Weber, who is tipped to become the next European Commission president, said the Brexit situation was “unpredictable” and he was “angry” that it remains so after three years of negotiations. He raised fears that “for the moment we are going closer to a hard Brexit”.

Mr Weber said that Ms Merkel, Mr Macron and other European leaders “are close to our Irish friends” and he said the 27 member states have been united on the Border issue.

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But he said: “If we are arriving now in a more critical period of time… and if we are running into a more difficult situation then we have together to assess what to do.”

He said the idea of the single market “must be protected together”. Asked on RTÉ Radio if this meant Ireland had to come forward with a plan to protect it, he said: “That’s not yet the case”, adding: “We are still in negotiations.”

Mr Weber said there was no interest in a hard Border: “That is not our idea. We want to avoid this.”

He added: “For me, the key question is that Merkel and Macron – both of them and the European leaders – we want to find a solution which is acceptable for all of us.”

The Government has sought to play down any pressure coming from European leaders on the Border issue ahead of Mr Varadkar’s visit to Paris to meet Mr Macron tomorrow and Ms Merkel’s visit to Dublin on Thursday, insisting the engagements are about EU solidarity.

Separately, the Irish Independent has learned that Irish diplomats have been in contact with politicians in the United Kingdom ahead of expected votes on alternative Brexit options to Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

They are said to be fielding the views of Labour, the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats on the votes which include options for a softer Brexit.

One Westminster vote which came close to passing last week was a proposal that would see the UK stay in a customs union.

A source said the idea of the contacts was not to interfere with UK politics but to gauge if there was support moving towards any of the alternatives, while highlighting that a no-deal Brexit is still possible.

Irish Independent

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