Tuesday 19 March 2019

Varadkar echoes Juncker warning there is 'no upside' to Britain leaving the EU

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives a Foreign Policy speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC on day three of his week long visit to the United States of America Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives a Foreign Policy speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC on day three of his week long visit to the United States of America Niall Carson/PA Wire
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has warned there can be “no upside” to Britain leaving the EU.

Mr Varadkar’s warning echoed the sentiments of comments by Jean-Claude Juncker  who said the UK would regret leaving the Union.

Speaking at Brooking Institute in Washington, the Taoiseach also said the failure by Northern Ireland politicians to restore the power sharing executive is "corrosive and dangerous" for the people who elected them to office.

He said the gridlock over restoring the Assembly means Northern Ireland citizens have no "effective political engagement" on issues that affect their lives.

"Just as important, it means that the voice of the people of Northern Ireland is not heard in the negotiations on the terms under which the United Kingdom will leave the EU, even though it will be of great consequence for them," he added.

Sinn Fein and DUP have failed to negotiate a new power-sharing executive despite more than a year of talks.

The Taoiseach said the majority of people in the North voted  for Britain to stay in the European Union and the same voters would prefer if Northern Ireland remained in the customs union and single market once Brexit is finalised.

He reinforced his call for an invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and insisted the current arrangement has had "hugely significant" economic benefits to the all-island economy.

Jean Claude Juncker
Jean Claude Juncker

After Brexit, the Taoiseach said he wants to ensure there is a "deep and comprehensive future relationship" between the EU and the UK, which will maximise economic engagement and trade, while also ensuring there is continued cooperation on combating terrorism and international crime.

"The extent and possibility of this is limited only by the UK’s red lines," he added.

Mr Varadkar also continued with the theme of his St Patrickc’s Day trade mission and called on US to make Ireland its bridge into Europe once Britain leaves the EU. 

He also repeated his concerns about the growing divide between the US and the EU in relation to tax, trade and climate change.

"We value our relationship with the United States, based as it is on the shared values of democracy and the rule of law, respect for the freedom and dignity of all, irrespective of origin, religion, sexuality or ethnicity," he  said.

"For years, this relationship helped provide a bridge between the EU and the United States.  I fear that there is a danger that the EU and the United States may drift apart due to growing divisions on trade, tax, climate change and many other areas," he added.

The Taoiseach said an international trade war, which has been sparked by US President Donald Trump's recent import tariffs on steel, would make "losers of us all".

"Alongside our EU partners, we oppose any steps that raise barriers to trade, whether through the imposition of tariffs or otherwise," he said.

"As the President of the European Council Donald Tusk has said, trade wars are bad, and they are easy to lose," he added.

In the foreign policy focused speech, the Taoiseach described Ireland as “committed internationalists and multilateralists” who believe countries achieve more by working together under “rules-based order” that citizens.

He said the main international challenges facing the Government are:

  • Brexit - the UK’s decision to leave the EU
  • Increased regional instability fuelled by geopolitical tensions and conflicts
  • Changing approaches to international trade
  • The challenges for governments of counteracting the rise of international terrorism in all its manifestations, including cyberterrorism
  • Uncontrolled mass migration.

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