No guarantee European Union would grant long article 50 extension, says Macron

Simon Coveney TD Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade speaking at the opening of Cork Airport’s new Airport Control Centre and purpose-built office suite The Hub. Pic Brian Lougheed

Speaking as the Taoiseach arrived at the Élysée Palace, President Macron insisted that the European Union "will not be held hostage" to the political crisis in the UK.

However, the British government only has until the end of next week to come up with a plan - with European Union leaders to meet next Wednesday to discuss the situation. "I am repeating it here very strongly".

The EU would be "open" to such proposals, but it was for London to put them forward, he said.

"However, there is still time for the prime minister to come to the European Council with proposals - proposals that are credible, and have a clear pathway to success", he said.

"If the United Kingdom is not capable, nearly three years after the referendum, of coming forward with a solution that is supported by a majority, it will have effectively chosen a no-deal exit on its own", he said.

Speaking alongside French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Varadkar said there was still sufficient time for May to present "credible" solutions.

But differences are emerging between the two sides as the possibility of a "no deal" Brexit looms, which would lead to the creation of a border between the United Kingdom territory of Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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Mr Macron, meanwhile, insisted the European Union will never abandon Ireland.

"Any extension must have a clear objective and a clear plan and of course we will need to talk about what we will do in the event of no-deal which would be particularly hard for Ireland".

In the event of a "no deal" Brexit, the Irish border would become the only land frontier between non-EU Britain and the rest of the bloc and would therefore in theory need to have customs controls.

Pressed for more detail, he replied: "A lot of it will depend on the approach the United Kingdom takes and whether they will cooperate with the possibility of checks happening at the ports in Northern Ireland".

Coveney said Ireland and the EU Commission were trying to work out how best to respond to a no-deal scenario to ensure the Good Friday Agreement was protected, but also that physical infrastructure on the border was avoided.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland must protect the single market because "it's in our interest".

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