Taoiseach told Tusk he supports deadline extension

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, left, shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk after a meeting in Brussels in February

LEO Varadkar spoke to European Council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday morning regarding the UK's request for an extension.

In a statement, Mr Varadkar affirmed his support for President Tusk's proposal to grant the request for the extension.

"They noted that it would still be possible for the UK to leave before January 31st 2020 if the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified in advance of that date.

"The matter is likely to be discussed further at tonight's meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Brussels."

The taoiseach said he is supportive of a request by the UK for an extension of the Brexit deadline.

Speaking during taoiseach's questions in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said: "There is no extension agreed, the European Union has not agreed an extension for the UK as yet.

"President Tusk is currently in the process of consulting the 27 heads of state and government.

"We spoke this morning. He is recommending that we accept an extension until January 31 that could be terminated early if the House of Commons and House of Lords ratifies an agreement.

"I agreed to that but that's not yet agreed by the 27 and we may have to have an emergency European Council over the course of the next few days to discuss it if he can't get consensus.

"My bags are always packed for Brussels and packed they are again."

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has called for clarity from the government over the Brexit extension request.

Speaking in Brussels, he told Sky News: "First of all, we need some clarification from the UK side: what will be the next step for them.

"As far as the request asked last week from the British government for extension, it's for the EU27 to decide and there's a current consultation now launched by President Tusk."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said a Brexit extension, if granted, is likely to be a flexible one that would allow the UK to leave the EU prior to the end of January.

Mr Coveney said the Irish government would be supportive of an extension but he cautioned that he was not speaking on behalf of the other EU states and said it was a case of "wait and see" if any of them raised "issues" with the move.

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