Leo Varadkar backs trade deal to avoid problems over border

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has received fresh assurances of a frictionless border in the North amid signs of a new power-sharing agreement in Stormont this week.

Mr Varadkar said a comprehensive free trade and customs deal between Britain and Ireland was the best way of avoiding problems at the border and any new barriers. After a meeting with British prime minister Theresa May in Belfast over attempts to restore devolved government there, he said that a Brexit deal agreed in December remained.

A new trade deal between Dublin and London was preferable over a last resort to avoid a border in the event of a no-deal, he said.

“That’s the best way we can avoid any new barriers north and south and also east and west and we have agreed to work together at official level to see if we can explore solutions about how that can be achieved over the coming weeks and months,” said Mr Varadkar.

There had been major doubts over the December promise by Ms May for no border, with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier even this week saying this would be “unavoidable” if Britain leaves the single market and customs union.

Ms May and her government have yet to provide detail on how to avoid fresh checkpoints and the specific terms for Brexit.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin and the DUP are hopeful of a breakthrough this week to resume powersharing. Stormont has been 13 months without an Executive.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said “political will” was needed to get a deal over the line. This includes resolving issues around the Irish language act and same-sex marriage.

“This is the week and this is the time to decide,” said Ms McDonald.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “There isn’t a deal yet. What there is is very good progress.”

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