Taoiseach: We will stand our ground on border issue in Brexit talks

Taoiseach: We will stand our ground on border issue in Brexit talks
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the first day of the Fine Gael think-in at The Galway Bay Hotel today. Pic: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has remained firm on the issue of the border in Brexit talks amid reports that a softening of the deal with Britain may now be on the table.

It had been reported that the UK and Germany are prepared to drop key demands in relation to the future of trade relations as part of a Brexit deal.

However, speaking at the Fine Gael think-in in Galway this morning, Mr Varadkar said there can be no compromise on the backstop agreement to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"Our absolute position, which we cannot depart from and we will stand our ground on, is that there has to be an Irish protocol as part of the withdrawal agreement and that is something we have to insist on.

"We need the assurance that there won't be a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"We have always been flexible on the detail and the language and that's important, but the principal stands and we can't compromise on that."

Asked whether he would be willing to compromise on other areas he said negotiations are "complex".

"I would be wise not to engage in a running commentary," he said.

However, Mr Varadkar moved to play down reports that Germany is now ready to accept a less detailed agreement around the future economic and trade ties between the UK and the EU.

"I think we have seen over the past couple of weeks a fair bit of kite flying and a fair bit of posturing from lots of different quarters."

"Only last week I say a story of President Macron being willing to make all sorts of concessions and that turned out not to be the case and this may be in that vein."

However, he said he would be speaking to all of the heads of Government when he travels to Salzburg in two weeks' time.

"We don't have any indications yet of any dramatic move," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar also moved to dismiss mounting speculation that a General Election may be called in the near future, but said his party would be ready to go to the polls, if that were to happen.

"It's always prudent to be ready for all eventualities, just as we are preparing for a no-deal Brexit, even though we think that's unlikely to happen, obviously we have to be ready for a General Election were that to occur," he said.

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