Taoiseach says Government 'confident there will be no border with North post Brexit'
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed UK prime minister Theresa May has asked for Ireland’s help in shaping her country’s future relationship with the EU without aligning Northern Ireland to EU rules.
He said these discussions will be carried out in conjunction with the European task force established to coordinate the European Commission’s negotiations with the EU.
It comes as concern grows in the UK about the repercussions of last December’s agreement that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic should the EU and UK fail to strike a deal.
Mr Varadkar confirmed the government has been asked to help the UK in shaping a final deal between Britain and the EU.
“We have been asked by the British authorities to work with them at official levels on how that might be achieved, but of course all negotiations will have to be done through the Barnier task force.
“We have made that abundantly clear.
“That is the objective - to make sure that people can continue to travel freely between Britain and Ireland and North and South, and that our businesses, particularly those that may be most exposed - those in aviation, the agrifood sector and farmers - do not face tariffs, non-tariff barriers and new barriers to trade, not just North and South, but between Britain and Ireland.”
Mr Varadkar said if Britain leaves the customs union and single market without a deal a border would be "inevitable" but he will implement the terms of last December’s Belfast agreement to prevent this.
He added that he did not want to see border on the island or the installation of trade barriers between Dublin and London.
“If they decide they want to leave the customs union and not replace it with something similar, if they decide they want to leave the single market and not replace it with something similar or close to that then it is inevitable that there will be checks between Ireland and Britain,” said Mr Varadkar.
“But, it is in that scenario where we trigger the backstop and what is there from the joint report in December, which is not just for the transition but on an ongoing basis, a special unique arrangement for Northern Ireland which contains full alignment and that is what we are seeking to be written in to the legal text of the withdrawal agreement.”
However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he fears the government is being sucked in to an agreement that will be damaging for Ireland.
He claimed the December agreement was over-hyped and over-sold.
“The UK government has been consistent for some time now that it will not be staying in the common market. That means there will be implications for Ireland.
"Michel Barnier and Commissioner Phil Hogan have put it very starkly, in saying that if Britain stays out of the customs union and out of the single market then there will be a border.”