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Irish PM denies 'plot' against Brexit

© AFP | Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it would be "counterproductive" to back calls for a second Brexit referendum

STRASBOURG (FRANCE) (AFP) - 

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar denied on Wednesday that the EU was conspiring to reverse the Brexit vote after a series of top figures held the door open for Britain to change its mind.

Varadkar said it would be "counterproductive" to back calls for a second referendum which have grown since leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage floated the idea last week.

EU President Donald Tusk said Tuesday that the bloc's "hearts are open" for Britain to stop Brexit, while European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that he would like Britain to rejoin the bloc even after it leaves.

Varadkar was at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to give a speech on the future of Europe.

"No, I'm not involved in any plots with anyone," Varadkar told reporters after the speech, when asked about Farage's claims that there was such a plot to keep Britain in the EU.

He rejected Farage's allegation that the EU was working with pro-European British ex-prime minister Tony Blair and deputy premier Nick Clegg to overturn the vote, saying he had not met the former and barely met the latter.

"I'm certainly not party to any plot against the United Kingdom, I'm a friend of the United Kingdom and certainly want to be a friend of the United Kingdom," said Varadkar.

- 'No backsliding' -

A decision on whether to have a follow-up vote to Britain's June 2016 Brexit referendum was a decision for the "UK Parliament and the people of the United Kingdom", the Irish premier said.

"We shouldn't tell them to do that or put any pressure or expectation in any way, I think that would actually be counterproductive," he said.

Farage had told Varadkar after his speech that "you are part of course of a bigger attempt to frustrate and overturn Brexit."

Varadkar meanwhile warned Britain against "backsliding" on commitments that it made in a provisional deal in December to prevent the return of a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

In his speech Varadkar thanked the remaining EU 27 nations for their support during the talks so far.

"As the negotiations move forward, we will continue to rely on your support and solidarity as we work to ensure that what has been promised in theory is delivered in practice. There can be no backsliding," he said.

© 2018 AFP