DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's main opposition party offered to extend an expiring cooperation deal with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's minority government until early 2020 to avoid what it called a spreading of the "political chaos" in Britain.
Varadkar's Fine Gael party formed a minority government in 2016 under a "confidence and supply" deal with the opposition Fianna Fail party, which agreed to abstain from opposition-driven votes over the course of three annual budgets.
The parties began talks on a possible extension after the last of those budgets was passed in October.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said on Wednesday that a fresh election now would be the right thing in "normal times", but because "no one has the faintest idea" what course Brexit will be take in coming weeks and months, it was in the national interest to avoid political uncertainty next year.
"This is why Fianna Fail will extend a guarantee that government will be able to operate throughout 2019. This will in turn allow the holding of an election early in the following year," Martin told parliament.
"Fianna Fail is determined that the political chaos we see in London will not be allowed to spread to Ireland."
Varadkar has consistently sought to extend the deal until mid-2020. Before Martin spoke, he remarked how the political stability in Ireland contrasted with Britain, where Conservative lawmakers triggered a challenge to Prime Minister Theresa May's leadership on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Varadkar's Fine Gael party had no initial comment to make on Martin's statement.
Martin said that the decision to guarantee continued support for the party's rivals had been reached reluctantly but was unavoidable.
"If the government shows good faith this extension can be completed and ratified quickly," he said.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Graff)