Ireland had been due to be one of the beneficiaries of the UK leaving the bloc by gaining seats in the Brussels chamber, however a six month extension to Article 50 has almost guaranteed Britain’s reluctant participation on May 23-26. Constituencies in Dublin and Ireland South (Munster and south Leinster) were expected to gain an MEP, and Mr Varadkar wants to ensure it does by being prepared for every eventuality.
The Taoiseach said: “What we might have to do on the day of the count is count the votes twice.”
He insisted the ballot papers would be tallied when the people of Ireland go to the polls on May 24 “once as though it might be a five seat” constituency if the UK does not take part in the elections and “one as if it were a four seat” constituency if Britain does take part.
Mr Varadkar, speaking at the Irish Distillers facility in Midleton, Co Cork added: “At the moment Fine Gael has four seats – our ambition is to hold those four seats.
“There are extra seats to make some gains. What we are going to have to do in both Ireland South and in Dublin it might be a three seat or a four seat depending on whether the UK stays or not, in Ireland South which is Munster and south Leinster, it might be a five seat or a four seat.”
Despite Britain’s blasé attitude towards the upcoming election, Mr Varadkar has emphasised its “the most important in a generation” as elected members will have a significant input on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union following Brexit.
The Taoiseach said: “I think these European Parliament elections are the most important in a generation – probably the most important since the European Parliament was founded.
“Big things happen in the European Parliament. It is where the Brexit agreement has to be ratified – not just in Westminster. It is where any future trade agreement with the UK will have to be ratified.”
He added: “It is where so many things are happening around reform – for instance the next European budget, climate action, employment rights – it really is a parliament with a lot of power now.”
Britain now has until October 31 to ratify a Brexit deal and will take part in the European Parliament elections next month unless MPs support Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement beforehand.
Following an emergency summit in Brussels the Prime Minister told MPs delivering Brexit remains her “priority” and insisted once parliament backed her deal the UK could leave the EU “as soon as possible”.