Leo Varadkar rules out Ireland-Britain-EU Brexit talks

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has strongly rejected British prime minister Theresa May’s suggestion that the border between the US and Canada was one solution to the Irish border issue after Brexit.

Ms May made the comment in the House of Commons after making a statement on a key Brexit speech she delivered last Friday.

“I visited the US-Canada border back in August,” he said. “I saw a hard border, with physical infrastructure, with customs posts, people in uniforms with arms and dogs. That is definitely not a solution which we could entertain.”

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Mr Varadkar also ruled out formal three-way talks between the UK, Ireland, and the EU to look at Theresa May’s Brexit offer.

Echoing comments made by Tánaiste Simon Coveney to the Irish Examiner

on Friday, Mr Varadkar said consultations could take place between the two governments about issues that are unique to Ireland but no side deals on the border issue are possible.

“We will of course have negotiations about what could be done to avoid a hard border, but what we won’t be getting into is a negotiation with the UK, or a three-way negotiation,” he said.

“That’s not in our interest and not the way that this can be concluded.”

The Taoiseach said he gave Mrs May’s Brexit speech on Friday a guarded welcome, but that detail was now needed from the UK government.

“What we want is not so much principles and aspirations and red lines,” he said.

Updating MPs on her plans, Ms May said the UK and Irish governments and the European Commission “will be working together” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

But Mr Varadkar said it was not in Ireland’s interests to take part in formal three-way talks regarding the wider Brexit issues, and that what was needed was for Downing Street to produce more detailed proposals. He said talks would be limited to issues unique to Ireland.

However, before Mrs May’s statement, Mr Varadkar said: “There won’t be tripartite or three-way talks. What will happen is that there will be talks between the EU 27 and the UK, and Ireland is part of the EU 27 and we’re much stronger by the way as one of 27.”

In London, following a meeting with British Chancellor Philip Hammond, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he was confident a “comprehensive deal” that satisfies Ireland, the EU and the UK can still be reached.

Mr Donohoe said all the ministers he met reconfirmed their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, to frictionless borders, to the agreement reached between the UK and the EU in December in managing the stability of the North.

“The British government have now ruled out a customs union but I do believe it is possible to reach a comprehensive agreement overall that can deal with the challenges we face on the island of Ireland,” he said.

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