The Taoiseach is “very confident” there will be no border controls after Brexit.
Leo Varadkar has said Irish people will not be asked to produce a passport or other identification to cross the border with Northern Ireland as all sides in the negotiations are against these types of controls.
Further Brexit talks are due to begin today when Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis meets the EU Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
It is expected that Mr Davis will reiterate his call for a deal that works in the best interests of both the EU and the UK during what will be the third round of talks.
He is expected to call for “flexibility and imagination” from the EU.
This week’s technical talks will build on the July round and the raft of position papers the UK has recently published covering both Britain’s withdrawal and their vision for the “deep and special” partnership they want with the EU.
But there are fears that a hard border could be inevitable after Britain leaves the EU, and last week former Irish president Mary McAleese said she believes that people will have to produce an ID card when crossing the border.
“I don’t see in the long run anyway around that,” she said.
Responding to the comments, Mr Varadkar ruled this out.
“In life, in politics nothing is 100% certain, but I am very confident there won’t be passport controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland. We want to stay in the Common Travel Area, which allows people to travel freely between North and South and between Britain and Ireland,” the Taoiseach said over the weekend.
He said there would be difficult debate around other issues such as trade in the Brexit talks, but that all sides are in agreement when it comes to avoiding a hard border.
“I understand President McAleese’s concerns, but it’s one area that I am very, very sure about and that’s that there won’t be a requirement to produce a passport to travel to Northern Ireland.
“Nobody is looking for that, in other areas of the negotiations there are different positions, there is a lot of contention, but when it comes to passport-free travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland everyone, all parties, all governments, London, Brussels, Belfast, want to continue passport free travel,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin welcomed the major policy shift taken by the Labour Party in Britain, who now want continued UK membership of the EU single market and customs union during a transition period.
Mr Martin said there is now an onus on all governments across Europe to prevent a hard Brexit from occurring and to look at all options that would ensure Britain’s continued membership of the customs union during an extended transitional period. He said: “A hard Brexit would cause serious damage to our strong relationship with Britain.
“It is also in Ireland’s interest to see the UK and Northern Ireland remain in the customs union in order to prevent the imposition of border controls on the island of Ireland.”
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