Thursday 18 January 2018

Varadkar urges British government to be 'more specific about its plans for Brexit'

Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a bilateral meeting in Downing Street, London. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a bilateral meeting in Downing Street, London. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Downing Street, London, after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Downing Street, London, after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Shona Murray

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged the British government to be “more specific about its plans for Brexit”.

Varadkar was at No. 10 Downing Street today where he met with British Prime Minister Theresa May for the 3rd time since becoming Taoiseach. He said he “encouraged the British Government to be more specific about the future relationship between Britain and Ireland, and between the UK and the EU”.

Varadkar’s meeting with May coincided with Ireland’s launch of its Rugby World Cup bid for 2023.

He said it was “very important” that Theresa May has committed to avoiding the “borders of the past” during her landmark speech in Florence last Friday, adding that this represented a “strong statement.”

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Downing Street, London, after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Downing Street, London, after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

During the meeting, Varadkar said he “pointed out” to Theresa May that “the best way to achieve that is for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland to stay in some form of a customs union and some form of a single market.”

He told reporters that May said she would be able to explore such issues “if we are able to move into phase two of these talks.” Britain is anxious to move on to the next phase of the Brexit process as soon as possible, which will involve talks on future trade relations between the EU and UK.

The EU insists that such negotiations cannot begin until there is “sufficient progress” on the 3 key issues for Europe which include a solution to the Northern Irish border, the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, and an agreement of the so-called "Divorce Bill" – the payment by the UK towards a number of EU projects it committed to before the Brexit vote.

 Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator and David Davis, the UK Brexit minister are in Brussels today for the resumption of talks on these areas but there has been concern from EU circles that not enough progress has been made to warrant the opening of trade talks.

Varadkar said “we’ve a bit of a way to go yet” before deciding whether this would happen by an October deadline.

“I don’t think it’d be correct to say at this stage if sufficient progress has been made but it’s possible that between now and the decision point in October, that that will happen”, he said.

In response to Theresa May’s Florence speech, Michel Barnier welcomed its  “constructive spirit” but noted it “did not clarify how the UK intends to honour its special responsibility for the consequences of its withdrawal for Ireland”.

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