BELFAST (REUTERS) - Ireland's prime minister urged Britain and the European Union on Tuesday (Aug 6) to use the time until Brexit, set for October 31, to explore alternative arrangements as part of a joint political declaration on their future relationship.
"We can talk about the joint political declaration on the future relationship," Mr Leo Varadkar said in a debate in Belfast with other political figures, "and in that there is provision for alternative arrangements.
"Why don't we start there and see if between now and October 31 we can't flesh them out? If we come to October 31 and we haven't fleshed them out, then there's the option of an extension (of Britain's EU membership). Or there's the option of leaving with the (Irish border) backstop, with the alternative arrangements to be sorted out in the implementation period.
Britain would rather avoid leaving the European Union without a transition deal but is willing to contemplate it if necessary, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said after talks with British counterpart Sajid Javid.
"My view is that it (no-deal) is not (the UK government's) desired outcome," Mr Donohoe said after what he described as constructive talks in London that focused on how to avoid Brexit leading to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"My view is they want to find ways to avoid a no-deal Brexit taking place but it is something they are willing to contemplate if they believe agreement (with the EU) cannot be reached," he told journalists, according to a recording provided by his ministry.
Mr Michael Gove, the British minister responsible for planning for a no-deal Brexit, said he was saddened the European Union was refusing to reopen discussions on a divorce deal.
Mr Gove did however insist that Britain remained open to negotiating a new agreement.
Mr Boris Johnson, who took over as prime minister two weeks ago, has taken a hard line with the EU, demanding that it show willingness to change the divorce deal it agreed with his predecessor before negotiations can restart to secure Britain's smooth departure from the bloc.
The European Commission said it was willing to discuss Brexit with Britain over the coming weeks, but the deal reached on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union was not up for negotiation.