Europe

Delay to Brexit if UK wants new deal, says Irish minister

Simon Coveney Image copyright Reuters

Brexit may have to be delayed if the UK submits an "entirely new" proposal on its withdrawal from the EU, the Irish foreign affairs minister has said.

Speaking to Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, Simon Coveney said the UK may have to rescind its Brexit notification "for the moment" if that happened.

The EU has said that Theresa May's Brexit deal will not be renegotiated.

But Conservative Brexiteers claim the prime minister's proposal will not be approved by MPs unless it is changed.

Theresa May has told MPs they will vote on the UK's Brexit deal in the week beginning 14 January and that another referendum would "break faith with the British people".

Mr Coveney said if there was a new proposal "undoubtedly it would need a lot more time to be considered on the EU side".

"That would probably involve an extension of Article 50 or pulling Article 50 for the moment," he said.

"But I think that would be a big decision for Britain to make and Theresa May has said she doesn't want to do that."

'Holding consistent position'

He also denied that Mrs May was snubbed by EU leaders during last week's EU Council summit.

She had been in Brussels to seek legal assurances on the Irish backstop.

"She wasn't snubbed and it wasn't a victory - the EU is simply holding a consistent position," said Mr Coveney.

"We have an agreement that Theresa May has signed up to and the British government have supported as well and 27 other governments have supported.

"Theresa May is not looking to reopen that withdrawal agreement or the future relationship declaration that was signed off a few weeks ago.

"What she has been looking for is clarifications around the use of the backstop."

On Friday, Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said the UK could not continually demand reviews of the Brexit agreement.

He ruled out a situation whereby the UK "comes back every few weeks" to query points, as "you cannot operate international relations on that basis".

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