July 17, 2018 / 5:45 PM / in a year

UK Brexit amendments won't change Ireland's position: PM Varadkar

FILE PHOTO: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision on Monday to accept the demands of hardline Brexit campaigners will not change Ireland’s negotiating position on Britain’s exit from the EU, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday.

Britain’s parliament on Monday accepted the insistence of eurosceptic hardliners in her Conservative Party for a legal guarantee that there will be no post-Brexit customs border in the Irish Sea. That move could complicate Ireland’s demand for a backstop agreement that could keep Northern Ireland but not the rest of the United Kingdom in an EU customs union so as to ensure the border between the North and Ireland remains open.

Varadkar told Irish state broadcaster RTE that he believed Britain and the EU could reach agreement on the terms of Brexit by October, six months ahead of Britain’s intended withdrawal. “(But) we can’t make assumptions that the withdrawal agreement will get through Westminster (British parliament).”

He added, “It’s not evident, or not obvious, that the government of Britain has the majority for any form of Brexit quite frankly. “That shouldn’t give us cause for panic and that shouldn’t give us any reason to change our position.”

Varadkar said Ireland needed to “step up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ scenario,” although he added that he thought it unlikely Britain would crash chaotically out of the EU.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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