Varadkar rebuffs suggestion UK has done all it can on Border

‘If UK is leaving the EU, it is incumbent on them to put forward detailed proposals’

European Union leaders met for the second day of a two-day summit to discuss Britain's exit of the EU. Video: Reuters

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has rebuffed recent suggestions that the UK has gone as far as it can in this phase of negotiations on the Border issue, warning that it will have to do significantly more in the Brexit talks to explain how it intends to preserve a frictionless Border in Ireland.

Mr Varadkar, who was on his way in to the EU summit, said “a lot more detail” was needed and that the UK has to significantly elaborate on its position.

If the UK is leaving the EU, it is incumbent on them to put forward detailed proposals so we can ensure that things remain much the same

“What we have had from the UK, which is very welcome, is some very positive sentiments, all the right language, about the future relationship between the UK and EU and also ensuring there aren’t new barriers to trade or movement in NI.

“Language isn’t enough,” he told journalists. “If the UK is leaving the EU, it is incumbent on them to put forward detailed proposals so we can ensure that things remain much the same... And I think we need a little bit more detail – a lot more detail in fact – on how you can square the idea of the closest possible relationship with the circle of the fact that they’re departing from that.”

Accept argument

In the House of Commons this week Brexit Secretary David Davis suggested that the EU was beginning to accept Britain’s argument that progress on the future of the Border is impossible before talks about trade and customs are under way.

Brexit doesn’t happen until April 2019, so we’re quite far back from the cliff edge at this stage

However, the summit “conclusions” on avoiding a hard Border will continue to reflect EU expectations of the UK that it “present and commit to flexible and imaginative solutions called for by the unique situation of Ireland”.

The Taoiseach was unwilling to echo more apocalyptic language used by Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan on Tuesday warning the EU is on a cliff edge. “I don’t think I would use that language,” he said. “We’ve a way to go yet. Brexit doesn’t happen until April 2019, so we’re quite far back from the cliff edge at this stage.”

‘Unique situation’

Mr Varadkar added that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are likely to want Irish passports after the UK leaves the European Union, as he stressed to EU leaders the “unique situation” in the North.

He said that “more and more EU leaders” were understanding the situation in Northern Ireland, which he described as “a territory that is going to be outside the European Union in which the majority of citizens are EU citizens, and the majority of which at least voted to stay in the EU”.