January 25, 2019 / 12:14 PM / 10 months ago

EU, Ireland to step up Brexit no deal planning - EU

FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looks on as European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a news conference at Government buildings after a meeting in Dublin, Ireland June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ireland has agreed with the European Commission to step up preparations for Britain possibly leaving the European Union without a deal to smooth its departure, a spokesman for the EU executive said on Friday.

Confirming that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had spoken late on Thursday, Margaritis Schinas told reporters that they had “looked forward to continuing close cooperation ... including on intensifying no deal contingency action in the coming weeks”.

EU and Irish insistence on a “backstop” protocol to avoid a hard customs border with the British province of Northern Ireland after Brexit is among reasons why British lawmakers have refused to ratify a treaty agreed by Prime Minister Theresa May and intended to ease disruption when Britain leaves on March 29.

In the event of a no deal, however, the EU has said Ireland will have to ensure customs controls on goods coming over the land frontier with the north, creating a problem for Dublin, since a hard border is seen as a threat to peace.

EU leaders have insisted that Ireland is not under pressure to soften its stance on the backstop, as May has demanded.

Schinas said of the call with Varadkar: “President Juncker once again emphasised our full solidarity with Ireland.”

Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel

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