Friday 22 February 2019

Leo Varadkar: Irish whiskey could be targeted as part of trade war between US and EU

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Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is concerned Irish whiskey could be targeted as part of the escalating trade war between the US and the EU.

The Taoiseach said when he hears the EU threaten to put import tariffs on US bourbon whisky it concerns him that Irish whiskey could be hit with tariffs.

"The day before I go to the White House the European Commission will announce it's response and what has been hinted at is tariffs on denim jeans and bourbon whiskey.

"When I hear bourbon whiskey I think the next response might be tariffs against Irish whiskey, so what you get into is a spiral of tit for tats."

Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Mr Varadkar warned that a cross-Atlantic trade war would be “bad for everyone”. 

He was speaking to Texas Tribune chief executive Evan Smith and during the wide-ranging interview he discussed US President Donald Trump’s administration and a raft of domestic issues in Ireland.

Asked for his view of Mr Trump, the Taoiseach said “he’s definitely not a career politician” and added that he was one of the reasons was elected as president.

On Vice President Mike Pence’s stance on marriage equality, Mr Varadkar said he always saw the US a “beacon of freedom” but added it is “really tough” to see that America is no longer a “world leader” on gay rights.

He said he thinks the majority of American people agree with him on marriage equality “even if the administration doesn’t”.

The Taoiseach said he intended to raise LGBT rights with the Vice President when they meet on Friday.

Asked by moderator Mr Smith at the talk what he thought of Theresa May, Mr Varadkar said: "If it wasn't for Brexit it would be a great relationship."

Mr Smith replied: "As we say Mr Prime Minister, that's like 'other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play'. Other than Brexit everything is okay." 

Mr Varadkar said there was no way Ireland could accept a hard border.

"It's not something we can really compromise on having come this far," the Taoiseach said.

"Having reached a stage where we have peace and relative prosperity on our island where we have most of the time anyway powersharing north of the border and where borders don't really matter anymore, we can't risk going backwards," he said.  

The Taoiseach added Ireland would not be following the UK out of the EU.

Mr Varadkar said he would not comment on US migration policy but got a round of applause when he said 17pc of people living in Ireland were no born there and "we are all the better for it."

Online Editors

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