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Macron, Irish PM urge UK to propose alternative Brexit plan

Philippe Wojazer, Reuters | French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 2, 2019

Speaking during a visit by Irish PM Leo Varadkar, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday warned that the EU could not be held "hostage" to the Brexit crisis and urged Britain to come up with credible alternative proposals to its exit deal.

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"The EU cannot be held hostage to the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom on a long-term basis," Macron said, adding that granting Britain a lengthy extension of the deadline for leaving the bloc was "not a certainty".

He added that France was "open" to an extension of the Brexit deadline under certain conditions but that it was "neither a certainty nor automatic".

Speaking ahead of talks with Varadkar, Macron noted that, "If the United Kingdom is not capable, almost 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."

For his part, Varadkar said European leaders need to be open to any credible proposals that Britain's Theresa May puts forward to break the Brexit deadlock at an emergency summit next week.

"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," said Varadkar. "We need to be open to any proposals that she may bring forward to us," adding that as things stood Britain was heading towards a no-deal exit.

The Irish premier met with Macron ahead of talks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin.

Ireland and Germany are understood to be more open to May requesting an extension, with France and some others ready to push May for more commitments.

Dublin won’t countenance export checks at EU ports

However Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Tuesday said Dublin will not countenance checks on its exports at EU ports following any no-deal Brexit as a result of its plan to keep an open border with Northern Ireland.

Ireland's 500 km (350 mile) border with British-governed Northern Ireland will be the UK's only land frontier after Brexit. The question of how to retain seamless cross-border trade has been a major hurdle in efforts to ensure the UK quits the bloc in an orderly fashion.

That becomes an even more difficult task in a no-deal Brexit as Dublin has also pledged to maintain the integrity of the EU's single market, where goods move freely around the bloc without the need for checks. The bulk of Irish exports to the continental EU are shipped via the UK.

"We have to find a way of ensuring that we protect the single market's integrity and that we avoid physical infrastructure on the (Irish) border," Coveney told parliament ahead of Varadkar’s meetings with the leaders of France and Germany this week.

"Ireland is not going to allow a situation where the UK leaving the EU without a deal drags Ireland out of the single market with it. What I mean by that is checks in EU ports on all Irish products, that is not a runner and would cause significant damage to our economy so we will not allow it."

Brussels has set Britain an April 12 deadline to agree to the divorce terms Prime Minister Theresa May has struck with the bloc, find an alternative or crash out of the European Union.

The EU has called an emergency summit for April 10 and warned that without a plan, Britain risks abruptly ending ties with its largest trading partner two days later, causing huge economic disruption

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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