Wednesday 19 September 2018

Government doesn't believe UK will deliver progress on issue of Border

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath

Shona Murray

The Government doesn't believe the British White Paper on the EU-UK future relationship will be acceptable to Brussels or deliver progress on the issue on the Irish Border.

The British cabinet is due to release the much awaited paper after it finalises the content at a special 'away-day' at the UK Prime Minister Theresa May's country retreat, Chequers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters in New York he would withhold comment on the paper for now, even though he was given a briefing on it by Mrs May last Thursday.

"I really can't comment on the British government's White Paper until we see it, and based on past experiences I'd really like to see it and read it before having an opinion on it."

Last week, in response to that briefing, he said he had warned Mrs May off coming to the table with a proposal which did not realistically take into account EU rules on the single market.

"She understood me that there really isn't any point in putting forward something that couldn't possibly form the basis of negotiations and that would be anything that engaged in cherry-picking," he said.

Mr Varadkar rang the New York Stock Exchange Bell after an official visit to the UN where Ireland hopes to secure a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.

The Government's Global Ireland policy focuses heavily on Irish engagement on the world stage, particularly through multi-lateral institutions like the UN.

Being a fully-committed EU member with a strengthened presence on the world stage is part of the Government's post-Brexit strategy.

"The UN bid lets Ireland be proactive rather than sitting in a reactive spot" as it waits for Britain to make up its mind, said Amanda Sloat, senior fellow at the Brookings think tank in Washington DC.

The main problem facing Mrs May remains that her cabinet is still wholly divided over the basic premise of what Brexit actually means, and how it should be pursued.

The Taoiseach was asked whether he prioritised trade or a solution to the Irish Border. He said both were "important" but the Irish Border issue is about "much more than trade".

"It's about maintaining our peace process and allowing people that live on either side of the Border to continue to lead normal lives and to lead peaceful lives just like they have for the last 20 years and something like that has to be of paramount importance," he said. But both Ireland and the rest of the EU are now preparing for a hard Brexit.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach denied the Revenue was scouting for locations for prospective Border posts at the Government's request.

"If they are they certainly are not doing it at the direction of Government and if they are they can stop," he said.

Irish Independent

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