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‘Issues surrounding protocol must be resolved before any Border poll,’ says Varadkar

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A Border poll now would be divisive and defeated and that’s not good for anyone, Mr Varadkar told Sunday Politics on BBC Northern Ireland. Photo: PA

A Border poll now would be divisive and defeated and that’s not good for anyone, Mr Varadkar told Sunday Politics on BBC Northern Ireland. Photo: PA

A Border poll now would be divisive and defeated and that’s not good for anyone, Mr Varadkar told Sunday Politics on BBC Northern Ireland. Photo: PA

An Irish border poll would “not be appropriate or right” at this time, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

However, he called for the tests surrounding when Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis should call a referendum on Irish unity to be clarified.

Mr Varadkar described the aspiration to a united Ireland as a “legitimate one”, but added: “I don’t think it’s appropriate or right at this time.

“Fundamentally, because I think we need to get the Assembly and Executive up and running.

“We need to resolve the issues around the protocol. And I think that can be done.”

Mr Varadkar told BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics programme he did not believe the tests laid out in the Belfast Agreement had been met.

He said while Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party for the first time in the Northern Ireland Assembly, they did not gain any seats, and said the number of MLAs who want a united Ireland was lower now than in the previous mandate.

“A Border poll at this stage would be both divisive and defeated and that wouldn’t be a good outcome for anyone,” he said.

In terms of the outcome of any future Border poll, he said 50pc plus one was not desirable.

“You’d end up having a very large minority of people being brought into a united Ireland they didn’t want to be part of,” he said.

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“What I would like to try and achieve is as big a majority as possible.

“But I do think one thing we should do is clarify the tests around when a Border poll can and should happen.

“Because I doubt any secretary of state would make that decision without consulting the prime minister and the cabinet and it doesn’t really say clearly how that test is applied as to whether there is consistent public support for it.

“Is the secretary of state supposed to look at the Assembly election results? Is it independent polls? What is it? And I think that’s something that really ought to be clarified and could be clarified.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said the British government has not engaged in serious negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol since the middle of February, yet is claiming to have exhausted all attempts to reach a solution.

“The British government now says that we've exhausted negotiations, we're getting nowhere and therefore we have to act unilaterally with our own legislation,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ Radio 1.

“That argument just doesn't hold any water when you actually haven't even attempted to negotiate.”

He was speaking after writing a joint op-ed for the Observer with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, warning there is “no legal or political justification” for plans to override the protocol.

The two ministers said the EU had been and will continue to be “flexible and creative” to deal with legitimate concerns.

“Unfortunately, the British chose not to engage in good faith with these proposals,” they wrote. “Instead of the path of partnership and dialogue, the British government has chosen unilateralism.”



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