Tuesday 22 October 2019

Trump meets Varadkar: US President says he intends to visit Ireland this year, criticises May's handling of Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meeting President Donald Trump at the White House Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meeting President Donald Trump at the White House Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has said he intends to visit Ireland this year.

Mr Trump is meeting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office this afternoon where Brexit is high on the agenda for talks.

Mr Trump and Mr Varadkar disagreed on Brexit and the US President used the opportunity to criticise how the EU has conducted trade talks with the US.

The US president said he was disappointed not to visit Ireland in 2018 and that he hopes to do so this year.

He said that he and Mr Varadkar are becoming "fast friends" and he acknowledged the Taoiseach is in a "complicated position" due to Brexit.

On his plans to visit Ireland Mr Trump said: "I'll be coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time but I would have loved to have been there. It's a special place."

He said he has a "very warm spot" for Doonbeg, where he owns a golf resort.

!It's just a great place," Mr Trump added.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, the US President said the US will stay out of Britain's negotiations over Brexit.

But he criticised British Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of the talks.

Welcoming Mr Varadkar, Mr Trump told reporters: "As you know he’s in a very complicated position because of Brexit.

"You’re going to have to tell me what’s happening," he said to the Taoiseach.

Mr Trump added that Mr Varadkar is a "very popular man doing a wonderful job."

Mr Trump said he wants Brexit talks to work out but was surprised at how badly the negotiations have gone, adding that Mrs May did not listen to his suggestions on how to negotiate.

Mr Trump also said he did not think another vote on Brexit would be possible because it would be unfair, and reiterated that he would like to see a US trade deal with the UK after it leaves the EU.

Mr Trump was asked if he's still a Brexit supporter.

He said: "It wasn't that I was a supporter. I predicted it was going to happen. I was right and people laughed when I predicted it...

"I'm surprised how badly it's all gone from the standpoint of negotiations.

"I gave the prime minister [Theresa May] my ideas on how to negotiate... she didn't listen to that and that's fine.

"She's got to do what she's got to do but I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner.

"I hate to see everything being ripped apart right now.

"I don't think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to people who want [Brexit]."

Mr Varadkar said he looked forward to discussing Brexit with Mr Trump and that he would like to see a European trade deal with the United States.

Mr Trump said the "issue on the border of Ireland is one of the most complex points."

Asked if the UK's exit date should be extended he said: "They'll probably have to do something."

He said he'd like to see a very good trade deal with the UK. "We're also renegotiating our trade deal with the European groups... But it's very sad to see what's happening."

He asked Mr Varadkar if he'd like to express his feelings on Brexit adding: "Maybe I should not let you do it."

The Taoiseach said: "Well we have a different opinion.

"I regret that Brexit's happening and the UK was a really important part of the European Union but they're going now and that's their decision.

"The most important thing for us in Ireland is that their decision to leave shouldn't cause any problems in Northern Ireland where people actually voted to stay.

"And that we shouldn't have a hard border or anything to disrupt the peace process.

"Also we want to make sure that we still have frictionless trade between Britain and Ireland.

"I believe in free trade. I think it will be a few years before the United Kingdom sorts itself out but in the meantime the European Union is available to talk trade with the US."

Mr Trump responded to this, complaining how the US was treated in trade talks with the EU and warned of tariffs being slapped on EU products.

He said: "We're talking about trade with the European Union. It's been very, very tough over the years.

"They were unwilling to negotiate with the Obama administration and they were unwilling before that to be honest...

"If they don't talk to us we going to do something pretty severe economically.

"We're going to tariff a lot of their products coming in because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly."

More to follow

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section