Irish PM Says Threat to Veto Brexit Talks a `Big Mistake'

(Bloomberg) -- Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gave his strongest signal yet that he’s not to prepared to use his veto over Brexit talks in the face of opposition from other European countries, saying isolating the government  in negotiations would be a “ a really big mistake strategically.”

The Irish border issue grants Varadkar an effective veto over the first phase of Brexit talks. In addition to the divorce settlement, the European Union wants sufficient progress towards an agreement guaranteeing citizens’ rights after 2019, as well as on an arrangement that averts reinstating a hard border in Ireland before talks move on to a future trade deal.

To “set ourselves apart would be a really big mistake strategically, ” Varadkar said in parliament in Dublin on Tuesday. “The best way to get an outcome” would be as part of the wider bloc.

Varadkar has considered pushing for guarantees that no border will be reimposed on the island of Ireland as the price for allowing Brexit talks to move ahead, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Ultimately, though, it’s in the Irish interest to allow talks to move on to trade -- Ireland is the economy most vulnerable to Brexit and ultimately the border question can’t be fully resolved until the shape of the future trading relationship is clear, Varadkar has said.

Moreover, Ireland will likely face pressure not to hold up Brexit talks over the border should the U.K. and EU reach a preliminary accord on a financial settlement, a European official familiar with the negotiation process said. It’s probably not tenable for Ireland to hold out on the border if all the other countries are satisfied on the bill, the person said.

Still, Manfred Weber, leader of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament, said it’s increasingly unlikely that EU leaders will give the green light in December to the next stage of Brexit talks.

“We have no clear readiness from the London side to commit to further compromises and that’s why for the moment we are in a blocked situation,” he told reporters at the 28-nation EU Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.