Varadkar: Tory-DUP deal not threat to Good Friday Agreement
UK officials insisted Border issues ‘right at the top of priorities’ for Brexit talks
Leo Varadkar during a press conference with Britain’s prime minister Theresa May in London on Monday. Photograph: Philip Toscano/AFP/Getty Images
The Taoiseach has said he is “very reassured” that any deal between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at Westminster will not undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking at 10 Downing Street following a meeting with Theresa May on Monday, Mr Varadkar said he had expressed his concerns about the possible impact of any such deal on the talks to restore an Executive in Northern Ireland.
“We spoke about the very important need for both governments to be impartial actors when it comes to Northern Ireland and that we are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and that any agreement that may exist between the Conservatives and the DUP should not in any way impact on the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“I am very reassured by what the prime minister said to me today that that won’t be the case.”
Meanwhile, in Brussels at the opening of the formal Brexit negotiations, EU and UK officials insisted the issues surrounding Ireland’s Border were, as UK Brexit secretary David Davis put it, “right at the top of priorities” for the talks.
The two sides announced a special “dialogue” on Ireland is to be managed by two of their most senior officials, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand and Olly Robbins, the permanent secretary at the UK’s Department for Exiting the EU .
Mr Barnier emphasised the talks on Ireland would be about preserving the Common Travel Area and he stressed the European Commission’s “determination to preserve in all its dimensions the Good Friday Agreement”.
Mr Davis spoke of maintaining an “invisible Border” in order not to undermine the peace process. He said there were enormous technical difficulties with trade issues which could mean this question might not be resolved until the end of the talks process.
In London, Ms May said negotiations with the DUP about supporting a minority Conservative government were continuing ahead of the queen’s speech tomorrow which will lay out her government’s legislative programme.
“We are talking about a confidence and supply agreement with them,” she said. “On reaching such an agreement we will make sure that the details of that are made public so that people can see exactly what that is based on.”
The UK government, she said, remained absolutely steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its successor agreements.
Both the prime minister and the Taoiseach expressed confidence that the parties in Northern Ireland would be able to reach an agreement on restoring the Assembly and the Executive by the June 29th deadline.
Ms May restated her commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area after Britain leaves the EU and ensuring that the Border remains as frictionless as possible.
“I am personally committed to ensuring a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social, cultural and political context of the land Border with Ireland – which so many people pass through every day and it remain our priority to work closely with the Irish Government to ensure a frictionless and seamless a border as possible,” she said.