Irish Prime Minister accuses Theresa May of reneging on border deal
Leo Varadkar has accused Theresa May of reneging on a deal over the Irish border after DUP leader Arlene Foster told her they could not accept it.
The Irish Prime Minister said he was "surprised and disappointed" that the agreement - which would have seen the Republic and Northern Ireland maintain "regulatory alignment" after Brexit to avoid the return of customs posts - had collapsed.
He made his comments in a press conference at the end of a day of high drama in which hopes were dashed of a major breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations.
Earlier, the UK government appeared confident that Mrs May would be able to reach a deal at a Brussels lunch with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier meaning the two sides could finally move on to trade talks in the New Year.
But after Irish state broadcaster RTE reported that the Prime Minister was set to concede to Dublin demands over the border, Ms Foster - whose MPs prop up the Conservative minority government - made clear her party would reject the proposal.
Ms Foster also made her feelings known to the Prime Minister during a hastily-arranged phone call midway through her lunch with Mr Juncker.
Maing clear his own frustrations, Mr Varadkar said: "Following the government meeting this morning, the Irish negotiating team received confirmation from the British government and the Barnier task force that the UK had agreed a text on the border that met our concerns. This text would form parts of the broader UK-EU agreement on phase one (of the negotiations) and would allow us all to move onto the phase two.
"I was then contacted by President Juncker and President Tusk and I confirmed to them both Ireland's agreement to that text. I am surprised and disappointed that the British government now appears not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier today.
"I accept that the Prime Minister has asked for more time and I know that she faces many challenges and I acknowledge that she is noticing in good faith but my position and that of the Irish government is unequivocal and it is supported by all the parties in Dáil Éireann and I believe the majority of those on these islands."
Despite today's setback, Mrs May insisted a deal could be struck by the end of the week.
She said: "We’ve been negotiating hard and a lot of progress has been made and on many of the issues there is a common understanding and it's clear, crucially, that we want to move forward together.
"But on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation, and those will continue but we will reconvene before the end of the week and I’m also confident that we will conclude this positively."