March 8, 2019 / 11:28 AM / 9 months ago

Irish PM says time for UK to compromise on Brexit

DUBLIN (Reuters) - It is time for Britain rather than the European Union to compromise to get a Brexit deal over the line, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday, describing Britain’s decision to leave the bloc as “a problem of their own creation”.

FILE PHOTO: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach) speaks during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Brexit talks between London and Brussels are at an impasse, with the British government seeking compromises from the EU to help pass a vote in the British parliament next week on the withdrawal agreement lawmakers rejected in January.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was due to make a speech on Friday saying that the EU “has to make a choice” on whether to compromise to avoid the damage caused by Britain.

But Varakdar said that the bloc had already compromised and that it was the British government’s turn to move.

“What was agreed was already a compromise. They have failed to secure ratification of this so it should be a question of what they are now willing to offer us,” Varadkar told journalists in Dublin.

“We have received no offer from them as to what they would give us in return for any changes.”

The two sides are at loggerheads over the so-called Irish backstop, which seeks to prevent the return of physical border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland — the only land frontier between the United Kingdom and the EU.

May wants legally binding assurances from the EU that Britain will not be trapped permanently in the backstop, which involves keeping Britain in a customs union with the bloc.

Varadkar suggested one possible compromise: returning to an earlier version of the backstop that would keep just Northern Ireland rather than the whole of the United Kingdom tied to the EU’s customs union.

“We were and remain happy to apply the backstop only to Northern Ireland if they want to go back to that,” he said.

Varakdar said a poll published on Friday that found 67 percent of people in Northern Ireland would be happy to remain in the single market and customs union after Brexit indicated that this option had popular support in the region.

“If Northern Ireland.. is in favour of the backstop, why would the UK House Of Commons ... go against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland,” the Irish premier said.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Catherine Evans

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