PARIS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday a no-deal Brexit would be difficult for Ireland and that European leaders needed to be open to any credible proposals the British government puts forward to break the deadlock.
Britain could crash out of the European Union in just 10 days time if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to secure parliamentary ratification of her divorce deal or an alternative plan supported by the bloc’s 27 other member states.
A no-deal scenario raises the question of how Ireland would retain seamless cross-border trade with British-governed Northern Ireland, with the frontier between the two becoming the only land border between Britain and the EU’s single market.
“We don’t want Ireland to be a backdoor to the single market,” Varadkar told a press conference after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
But as well as Irish commitments to the EU, Varadkar said Ireland had to honor the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended sectarian conflict on the island of Ireland. He described it as the basis for peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“That’s why we have to examine what we can do in (a no-deal) scenario to avoid the emergence of a hard border. We want to make sure that doesn’t involve any physical infrastructure and that’s a real difficulty.”
Earlier, Varadkar’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, had said Ireland would not countenance checks on its exports at EU ports in the event of a no-deal exit by Britain.
Macron has adopted the toughest stance of EU leaders against Britain, reluctant to let the Brexit turmoil drag into the European Parliament election period. On Tuesday he said any no-deal outcome would be of Britain’s own making.
There was still time for May to present an alternative proposal to break the impasse, Varadkar said.
“We need to be open to any proposals that she may bring forward to us,” he said.
Reporting by Richard Lough and Michel Rose; Editing by John Irish and Mark Heinrich