Sunday 23 September 2018

Taoiseach will put a stop to the EU - UK Withdrawal Agreement unless progress on the border by June

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Shona Murray

The Taoiseach has warned that Ireland will put a halt to progress on the EU – UK Withdrawal Agreement unless there is measurable progress on the Irish border by June.

“It is essential that we see real and solid progress by June if the negotiations are to move forward. 

“And without a solution to the Irish border there can be no Withdrawal Agreement. Let there be no doubt about that”, he said.

Mr Varadkar delivered the remarks this evening during a lecture on the future of European at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

He told the audience of students, lecturers and diplomats that Ireland wants the future relationship between the EU and the UK to be “close, comprehensive and ambitious”.

But he said British “redlines” - including its government's insistence it is to leave the customs union, single market and the jurisdiction of the ECJ are the main “barrier” to the successful delivery of an agreement.

“I believe the only barrier to achieving this is the United Kingdom’s own red lines.  If these change, Europe’s position can evolve too”, he said.

Britain needs the Withdrawal Agreement settled by the October deadline as it will also contain the terms of the 21-month transitional period in which British businesses can adapt to Brexit which happens in March 2019.

It also allows Britain to negotiate, but not implement any new trade agreements.

That is “very much in our interests and in the interests of the Union as a whole and most of all, the UK’s”, he said.

He also pointed to the fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and will remain EU citizens.

“And it is likely that the majority of them will be EU citizens even after Brexit, because of their right, under the Good Friday Agreement, to be recognised as Irish or British or both and accepted as such.

The Taoiseach also criticised euro-sceptics who have maligned the EU for so long, and who try to “entice Europeans down the pathway of populism and nationalism offer a dark and desperate future.”

“I am utterly and unshakably convinced that the European Union offers something else”, he said.

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