Sunday 15 December 2019

Leo Varadkar still not sure what sort of trade deal Boris Johnson wants with EU after Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar shakes hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Getty Images

Hugh O'Connell in Zagreb

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he doesn’t know what type of post-Brexit trade deal Boris Johnson wants with the EU. 

On the UK general election campaign trail, the Prime Minister has pledged to get a "super Canada-plus” free trade deal without political alignment with the EU by the next of next year.

But speaking in Zagreb on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said that while it was possible to get an EU-UK free trade deal by December 2020, he didn’t know what Mr Johnson meant by a "super Canada-plus” deal.

"I'm looking forward to finding out," he added.

Mr Varadkar said that the outgoing UK government and the EU had committed to having “tariff-free, quota-free” in the joint political declaration and said this would be the best outcome for Ireland.

He said he was awaiting the outcome of the elections but added that his focus would be on “strengthening my very good relationship with Prime Minister Johnson and, if he is reelected, working with him to secure what we signed up to".

Ireland’s minister of state for European affairs Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ireland’s minister of state for European affairs Helen McEntee (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Varadkar said that the more the UK wishes to diverge from its current trading relationship inside the EU the longer it will take to negotiate a deal.

"The quickest deal that we can negotiate is one that is very similar to our current trading relationship," he said.

He said that after the December 12 election when the withdrawal deal is ratified "we'll hit the ground running right away" and seek to negotiate a free trade deal.

Speaking at the European People’s Party congress, Mr Varadkar added: “I think it's possible but very ambitious to try and get that done by the end of 2020, because it has to be ratified by over 20 Parliaments and that's going to be difficult.

"But the option is there to extend the transition period for another year or two if we don't have it done by then."

At the same event in the Croatian capital, EU Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said "the idea that we would have a trade deal in place by the end of the year to me is not realistic".

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