European Union must agree extension to avoid no-deal, says Varadkar

EU will not discuss post Brexit relationship with UK until border issue resolved says Barnier

"The EU will stand fully behind Ireland", he said. Others favor only agreeing to a much longer extension.

"Nearly three years after the referendum the United Kingdom is today effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders", Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds said.

Once granted an extension to, say, the end of this year, a new British government would be unable to leave earlier unless it signed up to the withdrawal agreement, something Europeans are well aware that some of May's rivals are unwilling to do.

The Irish border, citizens' rights and a financial settlement would be three items covered in the withdrawal deal that the European Union has already endorsed, effectively meaning that Britain would be required to accept the pledges of the agreement if it ever chooses to pursue a trade deal with the EU. These talks are serious. "You have our full support", said Barnier at a press conference with Varadkar, who last week had obtained similar guarantees in his meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"We all expressed our hopes and expectations in this regard ... that this dialogue will conclude with a positive result which will allow us at last to have a positive majority emerge with regard to this withdrawal agreement". "Certainly he wants to know about conditionality", Mr Varadkar said. "Your country's future is only in your hands, nobody else".

The EU has opposed any renegotiation of the divorce deal but Barnier on Monday said an accompanying political declaration on future trade ties could be reworked "extremely quickly".

"This is not our desired outcome but we are not afraid of it".

Mr Tusk rejects British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal for a short extension until June 30 as there is "little reason" to believe the Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified by the House of Commons before then.

"The EU has always stated that the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes the backstop, can not be re-negotiated".

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"The UK doesn't want to leave without a deal, but at the moment it doesn't want to vote for the deal and maybe half the population doesn't want to leave at all".

The DUP leader said it would better for Mrs May to ask the European Union to deal with the backstop.

Pro-EU Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested Mrs May could carry on as PM until she has taken the country through the current phase of the negotiations and Britain has finally left the EU.

He admitted that to achieve such a goal is not an easy task, but he said that "We are confident that we will find operational solutions".

"However given the ongoing uncertainty we need to continue our preparations for a no-deal and that is exactly what we are doing".

The UK is now due to leave the European Union on Friday.

However, draft conclusions of the European Union summit, which circulated last night, made it clear that while European Union leaders are prepared to agree to Brexit being delayed - they want the deadline pushed back by months, rather than weeks.

Ahead of this week's European Council meeting, the Taoiseach has also spoken by phone with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Bettel of Luxembourg, and Prime Minister Muscat of Malta.

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