Politics

New prime minister won't be able to renegotiate deal with EU, Varadkar warns Corbyn

EU leaders will not sanction another Brexit extension unless the UK holds a general election or second referendum, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned.

During a private meeting, the Taoiseach “politely” told UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corybn that there was a “hardened view across the EU”.

He also emphasised that Theresa May’s replacement as British prime minister would not be able to renegotiate the backstop as the Withdrawal Agreement was “closed”.

“The chances of a further extension are pretty slim,” Mr Varadkar said.

The UK is now scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.

Mr Corbyn was in Dublin yesterday for a series of meetings with politicians and President Michael D Higgins. He is under mounting pressure to back a second referendum but so far says he will only do so if a Brexit deal is passed by the House of Commons.

It comes as US President Donald Trump said he had great respect for the frontrunner in the race to take over No 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson.

He described the controversial Tory as “a friend”.

Mr Trump, who will visit the UK and Ireland next week, declined to say who he supports among the various Conservative Party candidates to succeed Mrs May.

“Nigel Farage is a friend of mine. Boris is a friend of mine,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House. “I like them … but I haven’t thought about supporting them. Maybe it’s not my business to support people, but I have a lot of respect for both of those men.”

Mrs May is scheduled to leave office on June 7.

Mr Johnson has said the UK should be prepared to enact Brexit without a deal in order to force the EU to offer it better terms.

However, Mr Varadkar has indicated that a new prime minister should not go to Brussels to try to negotiate a new Withdrawal Agreement.

He said there was a very narrow set of circumstances under which the EU would consider changes to the document agreed with Mrs May.

“The only way that could ever change is if there was a fundamental change in red lines from the next UK prime minister or UK government. For example, a decision to stay in the customs union or single market,” the Taoiseach said.

He added there could “potentially” be a further extension if there was a general election in the UK or a second referendum.

The Taoiseach “very much emphasised” that the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, was “closed”.

Mr Corbyn said yesterday that the Tory leadership contest – and the prospect of a “no-deal zealot” becoming prime minister – means the issue has to go to the UK public. But in a sign that he would be prepared to work with Tory moderates to prevent a no-deal Brexit, possibly by tabling a confidence motion to bring down the government, Mr Corbyn said he’d do “whatever is necessary”.

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