Ireland will not be ‘blocking’ Brexit deal, says Varadkar

Taoiseach ‘looking forward’ to first bilateral meeting with Merkel since her re-election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett in New York:  Mr Varadkar said he did not think talk of a united Ireland was helpful at the moment. Photograph: Jason Szenes

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett in New York: Mr Varadkar said he did not think talk of a united Ireland was helpful at the moment. Photograph: Jason Szenes

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar does not believe that Ireland will be forced to block a Brexit deal this week as negotiations on Britain’s departure from the bloc intensify in the coming days.

Mr Varadkar will travel to Berlin on Tuesday for a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of a key EU summit later this week in Brussels, when the terms of Britain’s withdrawal will be discussed.

Speaking in New York on the final day of his St Patrick’s Day visit to the United States, Mr Varadkar said it was not a case of Ireland “blocking” a deal.

“We’re very clear about what we want to be achieved, which is the financial settlement agreed in the withdrawal agreement, citizens’ rights, the transition period and also the avoidance of a hard border. It won’t be the case of Ireland having to block it because this is very much the position of the European Union not just Ireland.”

EU leaders are expected to adopt “future relationship” guidelines at a summit in Brussels on Friday which would allow trade talks to start between the EU and Britain. EU council president Donald Tusk warned last week the future agreement on trade “will not make trade between the UK and EU frictionless or smoother”, warning that Britain would not have special access to the single market on services.

The Border in Northern Ireland is once again expected to become a sticking point in the negotiations later this week.

Withdrawal agreement

The Taoiseach said he was looking forward to his meeting with Dr Merkel.

“It’s my first opportunity to have a bilateral meeting since her re-election as chancellor. Of course, the focus is going to be very much on Brexit and on the withdrawal agreement, and also wider issues around the future of Europe, so I’m looking forward to that meeting.”

Asked about New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s suggestion at a St Patrick’s Day breakfast in New York that Gerry Adams’s quest for a united Ireland “makes so much sense”, Mr Varadkar said he did not think talk of a united Ireland was helpful at the moment.

“I think at this stage what we’re focusing on when it comes to Northern Ireland in particular is getting the executive back up and running, having a functioning executive cross-community assembly, functioning North-South bodies, and also ensuring that the UK’s withdrawal from Brexit doesn’t result in a hard border. Talking about united Ireland at these times probably isn’t helpful.”

Mr Adams was honoured at the annual reception at the mayor’s residence in Manhattan, where Mr Blasio announced St Patrick’s Day would be named “Gerry Adams Day” in New York.

Speaking at the event, Mr Adams thanked the Irish in New York for their support, telling the assembled guests: “I look forward to that support continuing in the time ahead as we secure and win a referendum on Irish unity.”