Saturday 18 August 2018

Juncker says 'miracle' needed for Brexit breakthrough as Varadkar says 'vibe is better'

Comes a day after Michel Barnier warned transition to phase two could take 'months'

File photo of Jean-Claude Juncker
File photo of Jean-Claude Juncker
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed the "better vibes" coming from Brexit talks but warned that there's "more work to be done".

He was speaking as he attends the Tallinn Digital Summit with other European leaders including Britain's Theresa May.

"There's definitely a better vibe and a better mood coming out of the negotiations between Michel Barnier and David Davis," Mr Varadkar said but added: "I think it's still very evident that there's more work to be done."

The first phase of talks relate to Irish issues, the so-called 'divorce bill' Britain will have to pay and citizen's rights.

The EU has said that the talks won't move on to trade and Britain's future relationship in Europe until they're satisfied with the progress of the initial negotiations.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said a "miracle" would be needed if next month's set of talks address the issue.

Mr Varadkar said: "We're not yet at the stage that we can say that sufficient progress has been made to allow us to talk about the new relationship and trade and I don't think we'll be able to make that call until much later in the month."

The target date for that decision is next months' EU Council meeting.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said that the threat by the United States to impose massive tariffs on a new model of jet made by Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier "could well turn out to be a lesson for the United Kingdom".

Fears have been raised for up to 4,000 jobs in Northern Ireland where Bombardier has a manufacturing plant.

Mr Varadkar said: "When the Brexit referendum went through, certainly in the months since then there's been a lot of talk about a new trade deal with between the United Kingdom and the United States and how great that would be for the United Kingdom.

"We're now talking about the possibility of a a trade war between the United Kingdom and the United States."

Mr Varadkar said: "I think what it demonstrates is that every country in Europe is actually a small country.

"Britain isn't even in the top 20 countries in the world in terms of population. Germany is 18th and we're actually stronger together as a trading block so I think perhaps it's something... to consider." 

Separately, Mr Varadkar has said that more taxes and increased regulation is not the way to bring about the creation of a 'European Google' or 'European Facebook'.

Digital taxation is on the agenda at the summit in Estonia.

The Irish government is opposed to moves led by France, Germany and others to impose greater taxes on such companies including by taxing their turnover.

The proposal could threaten Ireland's attractiveness as a location for tech multinationals if it proceeded.

Mr Varadkar said he told other leaders over dinner last night that  "if we want to foster innovation, if we want Europe to become a digital leader, the solution isn't more taxes and more regulation. It's actually the opposite."

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