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Ireland will not threaten to veto Brexit talks 'at this stage', PM says

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will not threaten to use a veto on Brexit talks “at this stage” over the lack of progress on the Irish border as Dublin is in a very strong position with all EU member states behind it, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO - Ireland's Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looks on during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not seen) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Zihnioglu/Pool

Brussels wants three issues broadly solved before it decides in December whether talks can move on to a second phase about trade: the exit bill, safeguarding expatriate rights and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the UK’s only land frontier with the EU after its departure.

After the latest round of negotiations this week, Ireland said there was still a way to go between the two teams on the border before moving on to trade, raising the possibility that Dublin could block the sides advancing if it is not satisfied.

“The question is very much a hypothetical one, we don’t know if Ireland will be the only outstanding issue in December. What I’m not going to do at this stage, I’m not going to make ultimatums or threaten to use a veto,” Varadkar told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

“The one thing we’ve managed to do in the 18 months since the (Brexit) referendum is to totally align ourselves with all 27 member states. From Berlin to Bucharest, they’re all behind us, and that puts us in a very strong position.”

The Irish government has called on Britain to do more than simply promise that a “hard” border will not return between it and Northern Ireland, which until a 1998 peace deal was separated by military checkpoints due to 30 years of sectarian violence in the British province.

Varadkar said on Friday that the best way to achieve this was by maintaining the same regulations on both sides of the border, adding that this did not amount to a demand that any part of the UK remain in the EU customs union.

Varadkar had sounded a positive note earlier in the week when he said it was likely enough progress would be made by the December 14-15 summit of EU leaders to give a green light.

“I think the December deadline can be met, I think it is possible to move on to phase two of the talks. We want to do that,” he told Ireland’s Newstalk radio station in a separate interview on Sunday.

“But we can’t do that until we’ve sorted out the phase one issues that are particular to Ireland and if we can’t sort it out by December, so be it, we’ll go into the New Year.”

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Gareth Jones