Thursday 22 August 2019

'Border wall' gaffe played down by Leo

Brexit will be good for Ireland, claims president

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)
US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)
Donald and Melania Trump’s message in the visitors’ book in Shannon Airport
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Donald Trump had to be reminded that Ireland does not want a hard Border after he compared the situation here with Mexico.

But the badly briefed president was keen to lavish praise on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ireland.

He denied his two-day visit was purely a PR exercise for his golf resort in Doonbeg, saying he was "honoured" to be in Ireland, and said relations between the two countries are "as good as it's ever been, maybe better".

The president, who is notoriously sensitive to criticism, denied any knowledge of comments made by Michael D Higgins about his climate change policies.

He said Mr Varadkar was doing "a great job".

"We have millions of Irish, and I think I know most of them, because they are my friends," Mr Trump said.

While the US and Irish delegations disagreed profusely on the issue of Brexit, sources who attended the private meeting in Shannon Airport said the atmosphere was "genuinely warm".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did raise concerns about Ireland's trade surplus with the US.

But publicly, Mr Trump appeared to change his usual stance on Ireland's 12.5pc corporation tax, saying the Government "should try keeping it low".

Mr Varadkar stressed to his guests that the economic ties between the two countries are a "mutually beneficial and two-way exchange".

He pointed out that Ireland is in the top 10 when it comes to investors in the US.

On a positive note, significant progress was made in the Government's long-running campaign to win access to E3 visas for Irish citizens.

The two-year renewable visa is currently only available to Australian citizens, but Mr Trump said: "I want to do it for the people of Ireland."

A single Republican senator previously blocked the move. However, the president committed to getting him across the line, telling reporters that Tom Cotton is "a great person". "He doesn't mean to do any harm, that I can tell you. He loves Ireland, actually," he said.

On Brexit, Mr Trump appeared confused as to why the Government is opposed to the UK leaving the EU.

"I think it'll all work out very well for you, with your wall, your border. We have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here," Mr Trump said at a photocall.

Mr Varadkar interrupted brefly to remind him: "The thing we want to avoid, of course, is a Border, or a wall."

Asked by the Irish Independent if he understood that Brexit would be bad for Ireland, Mr Trump said it could actually be "very, very good".

"Hopefully that will work out. I think it will work out. There's a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it. It's going to be just fine," he said.

After the president departed, Mr Varadkar told reporters: "There are nearly 200 countries in the world. I don't think it's possible for him to have an in-depth and detailed understanding of all the issues in every single country."

The Taoiseach said Mr Trump had heard from a lot of politicians in the UK who are in favour of Brexit and heard "a certain story". He added: "I used the opportunity to point out the issues from Ireland that arise from Brexit."

Irish Independent

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