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Thursday 8 December 2016

Leo Varadkar on Brexit: 'It is not our duty to fight England's battle for her'

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 27/06/2016 | 20:15

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar

SOCIAL Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has said 'Brexit' has shown the Government must put "Ireland first", adding: "It is not our duty to fight England's battle for her".

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In a passionate speech in the Dáil on Britain's decision to exit the EU, Mr Varadkar said the Government must also focus on speaking up on behalf of millions of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and UK.

The Dublin West TD warned that people who voted to leave did so, in some cases, for genuine reasons and that the result must be respected. He also one should not be complacent to think a similar referendum in other countries would produce a different result.

Mr Varadkar used his speech during today's Dáil statements to express his personal sadness about the impact 'Brexit' will have on young people in the UK.

"As European citizens, like all of us, they have the right to travel freely, work freely and study anywhere in the European Union, from the Algarve to Lapland, from Athens to Galway. And that right has now been taken away from them," Mr Varadkar said.

"And I hope there is some way we can find a way for those young British people to retain their European citizenship, which was their birth right in some way," he added.

Mr Varadkar also warned that Ireland will not fight Britain's battles for them in the upcoming negotiation process.

"On some occasions, maybe most occasions, our interests will be aligned with those of the United Kingdom," he said.

"But where they are not, it is not our duty to fight England battles for her. We must put the interests of Ireland first in the coming years and the negotiation process."

The minister said the Government's objective is threefold: Put Ireland's interests first, speak for our citizens in Britain and Northern Ireland, and continue to engage with the Northern Ireland executive.

He expressed opposition to a border poll which he said would likely fail if held in the near future.

"We do not need a border poll which would at the moment be unsuccessful and not bring about Irish unity, rather would bring about renewed division in Northern Ireland which is the last thing we need now."

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