Irish PM, Merkel Share ‘Strong Desire’ to Help May on Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he shares with German chancellor Angela Merkel a “strong desire” to help their British counterpart Theresa May break an impasse over Brexit.

British politicians return to Parliament on Monday to grapple with navigating the U.K.’s path out of the European Union. Critics of May’s plan fear the U.K. could be trapped indefinitely in a backup arrangement for the Irish border, effectively keeping the whole country inside the EU’s customs union trade rules. The premier is hoping for a new legal definition to reassure her critics that the so called Irish backstop will be "temporary."

Varadkar said he and Merkel had discussed how they might aid May in her battle to forge a way forward. The pair spoke for 40 minutes by phone on Thursday at the German leader’s request.

“There was certainly agreement from both of us that we weren’t in a position to reopen negotiations of the withdrawal agreement or the backstop, ” Varadkar told a group of reporters in Seeon, Germany, after he addressed members of Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union party on Friday. “But also a very strong desire by both of us to do anything we can within reason to assist the British government.”

Lawmakers at Westminster are due to vote on May’s plan in about 10 days. Varadkar said he could foresee a series of votes in parliament on various Brexit options if the current deal is defeated, and repeated that the EU’s position could evolve should Britain drop some of its red lines around the project.

“If it is rejected we would have to look at what actually gets passed to see if there is a majority for anything,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Varadkar said the U.K. can ensure it doesn’t crash out of the EU without a deal.

“It’s always in the power of the United Kingdom to ensure that there is a deal, either by ratifying the agreement which we’ve reached at government level, or alternatively by seeking an extension of Article 50,” he said. “So, the option there to avoid no deal is always there.”

Varadkar said while the U.K.’s plan to exit the EU has been “traumatic,” it has helped glue the rest of the bloc together.

“People often say that a divorce can be like a death in the family. It can also bring those left behind closer together,” Varadkar told members of the CSU. “In the midst of all the arguing in the search for an agreement, we have found strength and we have found solidarity from each other. ”

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