With an EU summit looming next week, and no sign of agreement between the two sides on how the UK should leave the bloc, the two men will meet “in the North West of England” for talks. It is thought the venue is in the Liverpool area, though no details have yet been released.
“This will be a private meeting to allow both leaders and their teams to have detailed discussions about the process for securing agreement for a Brexit deal,” a statement from Government Buildings in Dublin said.
Recent days have seen Dublin deny reports emanating from Downing St that Mr Varadkar had reneged on commitments to make concessions on the backstop if the UK shifted its position.
It will be the second meeting between the two leaders in the space of three weeks. They also spoke on the telephone earlier this week. However, sources in Dublin remain sceptical that any breakthrough on Brexit is likely before next week’s EU summit.
The British want Mr Varadkar to concede that the North could remain within the UK customs territory in return for its offer that it would remain under EU single market rules for all products, subject to Stormont’s approval. However, Dublin has two difficulties with the British plan, tabled last week – it grants the DUP a veto over the North’s position in the single market, and exiting the customs union would still require some checks on goods which cross the border.
Dublin is keen to keep the door open for a deal, but insists that negotiations can only take place between the UK and the EU task force under Michel Barnier – hence the formulation of the agreed official statement which says that the two leaders will discuss “the process for securing agreement”, rather than seek to reach an agreement themselves.