March 21, 2019 / 12:43 PM / a month ago

Cut Britain some slack, but no rolling extension says Ireland's Varadkar

Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland Leo Varadkar shakes hands with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Dublin, Ireland March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders must show flexibility on Britain’s Brexit plans given the “chaos” currently reigning in London, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, adding that Britain would have to give a valid reason for the time extension it was seeking.

As leader of the country that will be most directly affected if Britain leaves as scheduled on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement to regulate things, Varadkar’s views carry considerable weight among his EU colleagues.

“The situation in London is somewhat chaotic at the moment,” he said ahead of a Brussels summit on Thursday that will deal primarily with Britain’s departure from the EU.

“We need to cut the entire British establishment a little bit of slack on this and support their request ... for a short extension. No deal will only ever be a British choice.”

With just days to go before Britain’s scheduled departure, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday requested an extension to the so-called Article 50 period, which Varadkar said the EU was open to.

“I think there is an openness to an extension across the board but we can’t have a situation whereby we have a rolling cliff edge, where we just put off decisions and deadlines every couple of months,” he said.

“Brexit will require some very hard choices for the United Kingdom. It was never going to be all good and no bad.”

Reporting by Robin Emmott and Alastair Macdonald, writing by Thomas Escritt, editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Raissa Kasolowsky

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