Saturday 21 September 2019

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warns EU and UK not to 'sleepwalk towards a cliff edge' on Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the EU and UK not to "sleepwalk towards a cliff edge" on Brexit.

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Shona Murray

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the EU and UK not to "sleepwalk towards a cliff edge" on Brexit.

He said “we’re quite far back from the 'cliff-edge' but it’s incumbent on all European prime ministers that we don’t sleep-walk towards it.”

He also said the Irish government requires “a lot more detail” from the British on how to deal with the issue of the Irish land border between the north and south.

“It’s not enough to say you don’t want a hard border,” there “needs to be detail” and “language isn’t enough”.

He added that it is the UK’s responsibility to “put forward detailed proposals as to how we can ensure things remain much the same” after Brexit.

Yesterday, Ireland's European Commissioner Phil Hogan launched a stinging attack on the UK's approach to Brexit, warning: "We're now so close to the cliff edge of a hard Brexit that we can see the drop almost in front of us."

Mr Hogan also said that "it's painfully clear the UK government is not going to propose workable solutions for the benefit of the island of Ireland".

He also hit out at hardline Brexiteers who he claimed are "hooked on brinkmanship".

During a speech in Brussels, the Irish Commissioner also spoke of the urgency of an agreement for the return of the Northern Ireland Executive and the need for renewed North-south co-operation to discuss potential solutions to a hard Brexit.

A new deadline for “sufficient progress” to be made on negotiations between the EU and the UK has been set for December. The EU has to be satisfied that there is enough agreement by the UK on key areas that deal with the future of 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, the financial settlement owed by Britain after they leave, and solutions to avoiding a hard border between the north and the republic of Ireland before it will move on to trade talks.

The Taoiseach said he think’s it is possible “we can achieve sufficient progress by December”, but we’ll require further concessions by the UK government.

Earlier this afternoon, Mr Varadkar attended a meeting of the Norid/Baltic states which include Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands, all of which are small economies and have like-minded financial policies.

He said the group was “surprised” that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will be Irish and European citizens even after Brexit because of the Good Friday Agreement, and said “more and more European leaders are now understanding the unique situation that pertains to Northern Ireland”, he told reporters.

“I asked for their understanding of our issues, and they have our back”, he said.

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