BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is looking forward to a “close working relationship” with Leo Varadkar.
During a phonecall with outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny today, the embattled PM also reaffirmed her public statements that there should be “no return to a hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the wake of Brexit.
A spokesperson for Downing Street said Mrs May explained to the Taoiseach that she is working towards a confidence and supply deal with the DUP that should keep her in office and provide stability ahead of the Brexit negotiations.
“They confirmed their joint commitment to restoring a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible and agreed that both countries would continue to engage closely to bring about political stability in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister reiterated that the Government’s approach and objectives in the forthcoming talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive remained unchanged,” the spokesperson said.
In Dublin a spokesman for Mr Kenny said he “indicated his concern that nothing should happen to put the Good Friday Agreement at risk and the challenge that this agreement will bring”.
Mr Kenny also noted the absence of any nationalist voice in Westminster as a result of Sinn Féin’s decision not to take up their seven seats in the London parliament.
“Both leaders agreed that of immediate concern were efforts to establish an executive as soon as possible, with exploratory discussions with the NI parties to take place tomorrow.
“They discussed the meeting between the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire which is scheduled for tomorrow,” Mr Kenny’s office said.
In relation to Brexit they noted that negotiations between the UK and the EU should begin next week as previously planned. Mr Kenny reiterated the concerns of the Irish government ahead of those talks.
“The Taoiseach stated that there should be an early meeting between the Prime Minister and his successor Leo Varadkar and wished her well in the challenges that now lie ahead,” the spokesperson concluded.
According to Downing Street, in concluding the call Mrs May “thanked Mr Kenny for helping to make UK-Ireland relations stronger than ever, wished him well for the future and said she looked forward to continuing a close relationship with his successor”.
This morning next week, Leo Varadkar should be travelling into Government Buildings for his first full day's work as Taoiseach. It's a huge challenge. A good start is essential. Brian Cowen and Albert Reynolds are two examples of Taoisigh who never really recovered from a shaky beginning. Whereas Enda Kenny prospered for far longer largely on the basis of what he did in the first couple of years in office. Here's 10 things the new Taoiseach might do to ensure he hits the ground running.