October 18, 2019 / 4:28 PM / 2 months ago

Irish PM to skip UK Brexit debate for Rugby World Cup clash

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar arrives at the European Union leaders summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - While British lawmakers agonize in parliament on Saturday over whether to approve a last-minute European Union divorce deal, one interested onlooker will be watching a different television channel.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who played a key role in striking the Brexit agreement this week, said he will instead be glued to Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand in Japan.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address lawmakers at 0830 GMT on Saturday to kick off an extraordinary Saturday sitting, the first since 1982, with the teams set to take the field at Tokyo Stadium at 1015 GMT.

“My plans for tomorrow are to watch the rugby match,” Varadkar, a keen Ireland and Leinster fan who has togged out for the Irish parliament’s rugby team, told a news conference in Brussels.

“Hopefully that will be successful for Ireland and then we’ll see what happens in the House of Commons,” he said.

Varadkar moved a televised address to his Fine Gael party’s annual conference away from its regular prime time spot last year because it clashed with live coverage of Ireland’s last test match against world champions New Zealand.

Ireland beat the All Blacks 16-9 that day, just their second victory in 31 attempts, as their prime minister watched via a big screen at the conference.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Giles Elgood

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