DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Saturday he has no plans to call an election before Christmas and that uncertainty over Brexit must take precedence over the outcome of talks to extend an expiring government cooperation deal.
Varadkar's Fine Gael party and the main opposition group backing his minority government began talks on whether to renew their "confidence and supply" deal three weeks ago. His deputy leader said on Friday the agreement had a few more weeks to run.
Varadkar insists that he wants to extend the pact until mid-2020, rather than capitalise on his Fine Gael party's increased popularity by calling an immediate snap election.
The option of calling an election has also been complicated by the uncertainty over how neighbouring Britain will leave the EU.
On Saturday he spelled out that he would not like to see parliament dissolved before the passing of key legislation by Christmas.
The legislation includes the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which will introduce abortion services in Ireland following the historic referendum in May to overhaul one of the world's most restrictive regimes.
"I don't have any plans to dissolve the Dail (parliament) this side of Christmas but it's not entirely in my hands," Varadkar told reporters at Fine Gael's annual conference, noting that his partners in opposition could also pull their support.
"My primary interest is not going to be electoral advantage at the moment, it's looking after the interests of the country that we're charged to lead and with the uncertainty that exists at the moment, particularly around Brexit, the focus has to be on that."
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Andrew Heavens)