Varadkar meeting Macron for Brexit discussions

Justice Secretary David Gauke opposes a no-deal Brexit

"The EU can not be held hostage on a long-term basis to the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom", he said.

He again warned that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is the only deal on the table - and said that if the UK Parliament fails to pass it in the coming days, the country will have to request a longer extension or face leaving without a deal.

McAleese, who was speaking during the Dublin City University (DCU) Brexit Institute Conference on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, said there is a need to ensure the "groundwork is laid" ahead of any Irish unity referendum.

Varadkar stressed there was still time for the British prime minister to come to the European council before 10 April with "credible" proposals, and he said the EU should be open to such proposals.

Mr Varadkar said any Brexit extension needed "a clear objective, clear plan".

"We will never abandon Ireland or the Irish people no matter what happens, because this solidarity is the very objective of the European project", said Mr Macron.

Their meeting came after MPs twice rejected Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal, with the government now ramping up plans for a no-deal scenario.

They are also expected to discuss the forthcoming EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, as well as the European Union's budget for the period after 2020.

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Mr Vardakar will host German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin on Thursday.

He continued: "The three times rejection of the withdrawal agreement by the House of Commons and the rejection of all alternative plans now puts us on the path of a United Kingdom exit without a deal".

"We need to talk about what we will do in the event of "no deal", which will be particularly hard for Ireland", Mr Varadkar admitted.

"We can not avoid failure for them - a long extension involving the UK's participation in the European elections and in the EU's institutions is far from evident".

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.

Mr Calleary said the series of deadlocked votes in the Westminster parliament, and comments by European Union chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, strongly signalled that no-deal scenario was increasingly likely.

He said his government was now in negotiations with the European Commission as to how to achieve both of these objectives.

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