Let's be open to credible Brexit proposals from Britain: Ireland's Varadkar

"The EU can't be held hostage long-term by the resolution of a political crisis in the United Kingdom".

"We don't want Ireland to be a back door to the single market, anymore than anybody wants us to become a back door to the single market", Varadkar said after a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.

McAleese, who was speaking during the Dublin City University (DCU) Brexit Institute Conference on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, said there is a need to ensure the "groundwork is laid" ahead of any Irish unity referendum. "We'll never abandon Ireland and the Irish people, because that solidarity is the very sense of the European project", he said.

Mr Varadkar said any Brexit extension needed "a clear goal, clear plan".

"That is something that we do not have an agreed plan on but we are working this week and presumably next week on, if we need to, in the context of a no-deal Brexit", Coveney said, referring to meetings with the EU Commission he said had begun last week.

But as well as Irish commitments to the EU, Varadkar said Ireland had to honour the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended sectarian conflict on the island of Ireland.

They were speaking before Mrs May announced that she would seek a further Brexit extension and would be willing to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to find a way forward to "break the logjam" in the House of Commons.

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"We've set out clearly to Mr Barnier and others that any hardening of that border would represent a step backwards for Ireland".

Mr Vardakar will host German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin on Thursday. From the roots of British euroscepticism to the Irish backstop and the long-term impact of Brexit, we talk you through the technicalities in 2-minute (ish) chunks.

Speaking alongside Mr Macron, he said: "The UK is very much consumed by Brexit but Ireland, France and the European Union shouldn't be consumed by Brexit".

The Tánaiste also warned that Ireland will not tolerate a situation where mainland European Union states impose controls on Irish exports.

"In the unlikely event that we have a no-deal and the United Kingdom were to do trade deals with the USA or China and we had chlorinated chicken or hormone beef, or products made by child labour in Asian countries, the last thing we would want is that coming south of the border into the Republic of Ireland".

He said his government was now in negotiations with the European Commission as to how to achieve both of these objectives.

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