Sunday 19 August 2018

Leo can't afford to look like a soft touch after playing Brexit hardball

The Taoiseach has little room to manoeuvre, writes Dan O'Brien as he delves into the perilous politics behind the talks

ACROSS THE TABLE: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May on the sidelines of the European
Union and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, last Thursday (AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo)
ACROSS THE TABLE: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May on the sidelines of the European Union and Western Balkan heads of state summit at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, last Thursday (AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo)

Dan O’Brien

Import taxes on Brazilian beef and New Zealand butter will be the same in Ireland and Britain on January 1, 2021 as they were the day before. They will not diverge, if they ever diverge, for some time after that date. This may not seem to be significant at first glance, but in the context of a hard border appearing on this island in the years ahead, it is potentially very important.

Last week the British prime minister, Theresa May, made this new offer in Brexit talks. It is yet another move that would delay the effects of Britain leaving the EU next March for people and businesses.

The essence of the much talked about European "customs union" is that every country levies the same taxes (called "tariffs" in the jargon of international trade) on stuff being imported from the rest of the world, from food to pharmaceuticals, and cars to computers.

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