Ireland stands firm on Brexit as EU backs Taoiseach’s stance

Leo Varadkar. Picture: PA
Leo Varadkar. Picture: PA
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Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has received the full backing of his European counterparts as he warned he was prepared to stand firm on the Irish border issue.

European Council President Donald Tusk said if the UK’s offer was unacceptable to Ireland then it would also be unacceptable for the rest of the EU states.

Only a few days remain before a deal can be agreed between the EU and UK to allow talks to go on to post-Brexit trade issues and the future of the open Irish border remains a key concern.

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Mr Tusk said: “The key to the UK’s future lies in some ways in Dublin, at least as long as Brexit negotiations continue.”

He said the next couple of days will be crucial.

Mr Tusk met the Taoiseach in Dublin on Friday afternoon.

Mr Varadkar said good progress had been made during EU-UK negotiations on finance and EU citizens rights as well as on people moving between Ireland and the UK.

He said advances had been made towards a common understanding on protecting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended violence in Northern Ireland.

But he warned that the British Government must offer credible, concrete and workable solutions guaranteeing no hard border.

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He said: “I am also prepared to stand firm with our partners if needs be, if the UK offer falls short on any of those key issues, including the Irish ones.”

The UK is pressing for a frictionless frontier on its only land border with an EU state.

It wants to use technology and trading arrangements to ensure the free flow of goods and no return to the heavily militarised border of the conflict.

The Taoiseach said the UK was Ireland’s friend and neigbour and they wanted to work together.

He added: “I want to make progress but I also need to make clear: the EU 27 cannot declare sufficient progress without firm and acceptable commitments on the border and that is a position shared across the political spectrum in Ireland.”