Any future prime minister seeking to delay Brexit beyond the end of October would face “enormous hostility” from the European Union, the Irish Taoiseach has warned.
Leo Varadkar said an extension to the UK’s membership would not be entertained for further negotiations or indicative votes, despite claims from the remaining Tory leadership contenders that they will be able to make changes to the withdrawal deal.
Arriving in Brussels at the start of the European Council summit, which will be dominated by the election of the bloc’s top jobs, rather than Brexit, Mr Varadkar told reporters there was a “strong view” across the EU that there should be no more extensions.
He said: “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.
“So, I think an extension could only really happen if it were to facilitate something like a general election in the UK or perhaps even something like a second referendum, if they decided to have one.
“What won’t be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes. The time for that has long since passed.”
Mr Varadkar had a meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday morning, at which, the Taoiseach said, the pair agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened but that they were willing to consider amendments to the joint Political Declaration.
And he warned: “There’s no Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop and there’s no implementation period without a Withdrawal Agreement.”
Mr Barnier, writing on Twitter, said the pair had a “good discussion”.
Of the remaining three Tory leadership hopefuls, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the EU “would be willing to renegotiate” a Brexit deal, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said he would delay Britain’s departure if he was on the cusp of deal.
Front-runner Boris Johnson has said it is essential the UK leaves on October 31, and suggested the Irish backstop issues could be solved during the implementation period.
Earlier, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the next prime minister needs to realise a no-deal Brexit would be bad for the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “With a hard Brexit, even with a normal Brexit, the UK will be a different country.
“It will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable.”
And he said there could not be a transition period if a Withdrawal Agreement was not in place, telling the BBC: “As Boris Johnson would say, Brexit is Brexit.
“I would say a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit. I don’t see how you can sweeten it.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?