Irish PM rules out changes to Brexit deal or ‘backstop’

Varadkar says U.K.’s future ties with EU could be discussed

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday that he was open to discussing how to save Britain’s exit deal with the EU ahead of talks with Theresa May, but repeated that the text itself could not be reopened.

He was speaking on a visit to Northern Ireland for talks with local political parties, before hosting British Prime Minister May for dinner in Dublin. “Today is an opportunity for me, really, to listen to different perspectives, to hear what people have to say, and maybe just to collect some suggestions as to how we might move forward,” Mr. Varadkar said.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but the House of Commons last month rejected a divorce deal drawn up between Ms. May’s government and Brussels. MPs then voted to request that Ms. May renegotiate the Irish “backstop”.

Mr. Varadkar insisted that “the withdrawal agreement and the backstop are not up for negotiation.”

He repeated that the EU could discuss changes to a statement on future ties.

In London, Ms. May’s spokeswoman repeated that she was seeking “legally binding changes”. And Ms. May’s Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, said after meeting Mr. Varadkar that they could not support anything less.

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