Sunday 17 February 2019

Varadkar compares Brexit to a 'death in the family' that could bring people closer together

Leo Varadkar in Bavaria
Leo Varadkar in Bavaria
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has compared Brexit to a “death in the family” that can bring those left behind closer together.

He made the remarks in an address to German politicians on the challenges facing Europe.

He said: “People often say that a divorce can be like a death in the family.

“It can also bring those left behind closer together.

“The Brexit divorce has at times been traumatic, but it has not proven fatal to the European family.”

Mr Varadkar argued that support for EU membership and the single currency has increased not decreased across the continent.

He added: “In the midst of all the arguing in the search for an agreement, we have found strength and we have found solidarity from each other.

“We need to take this with us as we deal with other challenges.”

Mr Varadkar is today attending the Christian Social Union (CSU) conference.

The CSU are the Bavarian allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Ms Merkel stood down as CDU leader last year but plans to remain on as Chancellor until 2021.

Mr Varadkar will meet Ms Merkel’s successor as CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tomorrow morning for discussions on Brexit and the future of Europe.

Mr Varadkar said Brexit is one of the biggest challenges faced by the EU adding: “For the first time an EU member state is leaving. So we need to get it right.”

He said peace in Ireland was born out of the European ideal of communities coming together, not growing apart and said that the European Union is in many ways a Franco-German peace process.

He said in Ireland the EU was a fundamental pre-condition for the peace process “sweeping away borders and differences without threatening anyone’s nationality or loyalities.”

He added: “We cannot allow that to falter now.”

Mr Varadkar said that throughout the Brexit process two things have remained constant; European support for Irish concerns and safeguarding peace; and “our understanding of what must be defended.

 “We are determined to prevent the re-emergence of a hard border on our island.

“At the same time, we want the future relationship between the EU and the UK to be as close, comprehensive and ambitious as possible, provided there is a level playing field and the integrity of our single market is upheld.”

Earlier, Mr Varadkar spoke of a changing world saying: “Global power and wealth are shifting east and south, and we will experience massive demographic changes.”

He said: “To preserve our way of life and advance all our values we need more Europe not less.

“Issues such as climate change, terrorism, cyber-security, illegal migration, international trade, and the regulation of major corporations are transnational. On these we need to think and act together.”

Mr Varadkar opened and closed his speech with passages in German.

Mr Varadkar was greeted outside the conference by Alexander Dobrindt, the leader of the CSU group in the Bundestag, a the snow-bound Kloster Seeorn centre, a former monastery outside Munich.

He spoke to the German media and was asked his prediction on the chances of a hard Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said: “It’s very much my view that we can ensure that we have a deal.”

He said it was endorsed by 28 governments including the UK and while it's “not perfect for anyone” it can work.

Mr Varadkar added: “We’ll see in the next couple of weeks whether or not it’s possible to have that ratified by the British government...

“I still expect that we will have a deal in the next couple of weeks but it’s only prudent of course that as every day passes we intensify our preparations for a no-deal.”

Online Editors

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