Tory leadership rivals, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both vowed to ditch the backstop – a mechanism aimed to prevent a hard border in Ireland. In a major boost to their premiership and chances of finally delivering Brexit, the Irish Prime Minister insisted he is “willing to compromise” if a series of tests were met. Mr Varadkar told RTE: “I am going to have to listen to the prime minister, whenever he is elected, and I’ll have a chance to see if they have any meaningful or workable suggestions.”
However the europhile has made it clear, any proposals needs to ensure Britain’s exit from the bloc does not ead to the emergence of a hard border, and the rights of citizens are protected under the Good Friday Agreement.
He added: “I am willing to compromise, provided those objectives are achieved.”
Mr Varadkar’s comments are in stark contrast to the constant message from Brussels that Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement is not open to re-negotiation.
During the EU summit last month, Jean-Claude Juncker in one of his final speeches as EU Commission President, took the oppourtunity to re-affirm the bloc’s rigid position.
Mr Juncker said: “On Brexit there was nothing new – nothing new, because we repeated unanimously that there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.
EU Council President, Donald Tusk, added: “We have agreed on the following united approach of the EU27. We look forward to working together with the next UK prime minister, we want to avoid a disorderly Brexit and establish a future relationship that is as close as possible with the UK.
“We are open for talks when it comes to the declaration of the future relationship, were the position of the UK to evolve, but the withdrawal agreement is not open for negotiation.”
Nevertheless Mr Varadkar added he “can see a route” to preventing a hard border but admitted Ireland is “stepping up” preparations for no deal.
Mr Varadkar suggested one alternative would be for the backstop to cover just Northern Ireland rather than the whole of the UK.
However the Irish Premier has his reservations whether the DUP’s 10 MPs – who prop up the Tory Government, would agree to such measures.
If a solution to the backstop could not be found before the October 31 deadline, the Taoiseach warned delays at ports are likely following a no deal Brexit.
Mr Varadkar said the Republic is ready for the withdrawal, with 700 extra officials employed and temporary structures at Dublin Airport and Dublin and Rosslare sea ports.
He said: “I cannot see there not being delays. This is a big change.
“Will there be delays at Dover and Calais? Absolutely.
“Will there be potential delays at Dublin and Rosslare? Yes. I think it will be the same, but it will work.”