Europe

Leo Varadkar warns of 'growing risk of no-deal Brexit'

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Media caption'There is a growing risk of no deal'

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has warned there is "growing risk" of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar's comments come after Theresa May announced she will stand down from her position on 7 June.

The taoiseach said there was a "possibility that the new British prime minister may try to repudiate the withdrawal agreement".

In response, DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mr Varadkar should recognise the flaws in the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland will "stand firm" on its position against a hard border between NI and Ireland.

"There is growing risk of no deal. There is of course a possibility that there may be a new British government that might follow a different course, a more European course, I can't predict either of those things," Mr Varadkar said in Brussels, ahead of an EU summit of European leaders.

"But what I can say is the European Union and Ireland will stand firm in our position that there can't be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and we need a legal Treaty guarantee of that."

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Image caption Leo Varadkar made the comments as he arrived at the EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday

In response to the EU election result in Northern Ireland, the taoiseach said it was important Britain recognised that two of the three elected MEPs were pro-Remain.

"There's no question about the fact that the Brexit Party did very well in the European elections in Britain, and so did all the Remain parties. If you add up their support, it's slightly higher in fact," said Mr Varadkar.

"What I think is really significant, and I hope this has been noticed in Britain, is the result of the European elections in Northern Ireland, where for 40 years there have been two unionists and one nationalist.

"That is no longer the case.

"There is one unionist, one Alliance Party MEP and one nationalist.

"So, two out of the three MEPs elected in Northern Ireland are supporting the European Union and supporting the backstop and I hope that hasn't been missed as a fact by the British government and the wiser British people."

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Image caption Theresa May announced her intention to resign as leader of the Conservative party last week

In a tweet responding to Mr Varadkar's comments, Mrs Foster said: "It's time Leo realised that the best way to a deal as we exit the EU is to address the flaws in the Withdrawal Agreement.

"Compromise should not be seen as weakness. It was a UK question. Respect the referendum.

"Northern Ireland had two 'remain' MEPs before the election too."

Last week, Theresa May announced she would quit as Conservative leader, paving the way for a leadership contest.

While the official race gets underway in early June, several members of the party have announced their candidacy.

It is expected the winner, due to be announced in late July, will also become the prime minister.

One of those seeking nomination is Jeremy Hunt, who told BBC Radio Radio 4's Today programme he would create a new UK negotiating team - drawn from all sides of the Tory Party, plus members of Northern Ireland's DUP.

The DUP's 10 MPs prop up the Conservative government in Westminster.

When asked about Mr Hunt's suggestion, Mr Varadkar said it would be "for the new prime minister to decide how to structure their negotiating team".

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