Varadkar: Clarity needed on post-Brexit relationship

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “time is running out” for British prime minister Theresa May and her cabinet to decide what kind of Brexit they want.

Leo Varadkar and Sebastian Kurz. Pic: Dragan Tatic

Speaking in Vienna following a bilatteral meeting with Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Mr Varadkar said certainty is needed as soon as possible, adding that the March 2019 deadline is fast approaching.

“Certainly I am not losing patience, but time is running out, March 2019 isn’t all that far away now,” he said.

It would be difficult to agree a transition agreement without knowing what kind of relationship would come out of it.

“We await an outcome from the UK cabinet as to exactly what relationship they want with the EU after Brexit. As much clarity as soon as possible would be welcome. 

"It is 20 months now since the referendum, 20 years since some people started campaigning for one. So at this stage having clarity as to what the UK would like its new relationship to be like would be very welcome.”

Mr Kurz who is just 31 and who spent some time in Bray, Co Wicklow, to learn English, said he supported the Irish case for no return to a hard border, describing the situation with the North as “delicate”.

“We need a solution which is a satisfactory one for Ireland with a delicate situation when it comes to Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kurz. “A hard border between Ireland and Great Britain will not work.”

Mr Varadkar, who was guest of honour at a gala opera in Vienna, also said he would be using the occassion to press the case for Central Bank governor Philip Lane to be nominated to the board of the European Central Bank.

“Yeah of course,” said Mr Varadkar. “We didn’t get to speak about it in our tête-à-tête meeting but we will be speaking later on in the evening. 

"We do have somebody on the General Council but not on the board. We’re putting forward for the first time a candidate of distinction, Philip Lane.”

Mr Kurz said he would look positively at the Irish proposal.

Mr Varadkar also said that while he wished Mary Lou McDonald well as the new Sinn Féin president, their parties remain incompatible in terms of government formation.

He also said he wished her elevation to president would lead to a break in the celebration of the violence events of the past.

“I think it would be welcome if the new president of Sinn Féin was to bring about a clean break with the past, particularly the ongoing celebration of violence by Sinn Féin at commemorations and so on,” he said.

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