June 12, 2020 / 3:17 PM / 23 days ago

Irish PM expects coalition deal in next couple of days

FILE PHOTO: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar speaks at a count centre, during Ireland's national election, in Citywest, near Dublin, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - There is a strong possibility negotiators from Ireland’s Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green parties will strike a deal over the next couple of days to form a new coalition government, acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

Any agreement to end a months-long political deadlock would have to be ratified by grassroot members from each party, with the smaller Greens requiring two-thirds support, a higher bar than the larger parties and which could yet scupper the deal.

The parties want the new government in place before the end of June as parliament is unable to pass any new laws, including those needed to uphold a 6.5 billion euro package of support measures for COVID-19-hit businesses, without a new administration.

“They are progressing. It seems that every day one or two new papers are signed off and I think there is a strong possibility that we will have a programme for government in the next couple of days,” Varadkar told a news conference.

Varadkar said the government will review in two weeks’ time whether to resume air travel to other European countries and urged European Union authorities to come up with a coordinated plan where so-called “air bridges” would be opened between member states depending on the coronavirus situation.

Ireland favours using a common set of rules for when, for example, the number of cases is below a certain number for a certain number of days in two countries and an air bridge can be opened between them, he said.

Ireland requires anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days. Varadkar said the fatalities in neighbouring Britain and the higher rate of infection there were concerns for Ireland.

“There is a real risk of the virus being reimported into Ireland by people travelling here from Britain, and that’s why the restrictions have to stay in place for now,” he said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans and Hugh Lawson

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