Taoiseach on Brextension: 'The EU is not a prison, nobody is forced to stay'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Irish Distillers, Midleton, Co. Cork today. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted he "can't afford" for his patience to run out with Britain over the ongoing Brexit crisis, despite admitting the Westminster drama will play havoc with Ireland's European election plans.

Mr Varadkar said he and his Government must continue to try and solve the Brexit stand-off regardless of the difficulties taking place as jobs, the economy and the border depend on a positive final result.

Speaking to reporters in Midleton in east Cork today before travelling to Kerry, the Taoiseach acknowledged there is a growing strain between Britain and the EU over the seemingly never-ending impasse.

However, despite the pressure boiling over with the Irish ambassador to Britain accusing the Spectator magazine of making "hostile" anti-Irish comments and the difficulties the ongoing Brexit confusion will cause Ireland's European election plans, Mr Varadkar said the country must remain calm.

Asked if he is losing his patience with Britain over the crisis, Mr Varadkar said: "No, and I can't afford for it to run out... we're going to have to be patient."

He added when asked about his Brussels comments Ireland must be "the grown ups in the room":

I think our role is to understand the UK has got itself into a very difficult position. For a lot of us it was predictable... The EU is not a prison, nobody is forced to stay. So we're never going to kick them out and if they do leave there'll still be a place at the table for them to return.

The Taoiseach separately confirmed that if Britain contests next month's MEP elections - a key condition of the October 31 Brexit extension pact - it will impact on the Irish MEP elections race.

Noting the fact Ireland South and Dublin will lose a seat each if Britain contests, he said this will mean "what we'll actually have to do on the day of the count is count the votes twice" to give results for both scenarios - confusing an already complex race.

Meanwhile, although Mr Varadkar said he did not know about Irish ambassador Adrian O'Neill's letter to the Spectator magazine before it was sent, he said part of Mr O'Neill's job is to make sure "Ireland's story is reported accurately".

Asked for his view of the article which said "little Leo" should rejoin the commonwealth, the Taoiseach pointedly said: "To be honest I don't read the Spectator."

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