Leo Varadkar ‘still hopeful Brexit won’t happen’

Taoiseach says best way to avoid border is for UK to stay in single market and customs union

Leo Varadkar: ‘Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish one.’ Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar: ‘Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish one.’ Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he hopes the UK will pull back from the precipice of leaving the European Union and that part of his remit is to “keep the door open” for our neighbours.

Mr Varadkar said that the best outcome for the Republic and the UK would be to avoid any North-South border in Ireland or an east-west border between Ireland and Britain.

During a visit to Waterford for a jobs announcement, Mr Varadkar was asked if he thought there was any possibility of Brexit not going ahead despite last year’s referendum result.

He replied: “Well I still hope that it won’t happen. Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish one. It’s the United Kingdom that’s decided to leave and, as far as I’m concerned when it comes to my work in Brussels, working with other European prime ministers and presidents, it’s part of my remit to keep the door open, not just to the European Union but also to the single market and also to the customs union should they decide to go down that route and that, I think, would be the best outcome for Ireland and Northern Ireland and Britain.”

Mr Varadkar said the best way to avoid a border between the North and the Republic “is for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union or if not, at the very least to stay in the single market and the customs union and the door is open for them to do that”.

Coalition

The Taoiseach would not be drawn on speculation about a grand coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael after the next general election. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has not ruled out such a prospect.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m head of a government that’s made up of Fine Gael and Independents,” he told reporters.

“The Government’s working really well. I want it to continue and to see through our term and do the business and do the work for Irish people, improving their lives, and that’s my objective.”

He said it would not be appropriate to talk about future coalition possibilities.

During a visit to a Bausch + Lomb plant in Waterford, Mr Varadkar acknowledged that the city and the southeast region had not grown to the same extent as other parts of the country in recent years.

“I believe in a republic of opportunity in which all parts of the country share in our prosperity and share in our growth and I want Waterford to catch up on our other cities and this region to catch up and that does involve further investment such as the one were seeing here today.”

He said legislation allowing for the long-awaited development of a technological university for the southeast should be passed by the end of the year.

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