No-deal Brexit is something to fear, says Taoiseach
Leo Varadkar rejects Brexiteers’ claims he is engaging in a ‘project fear’ campaign
‘A no-deal Brexit would have very serious impacts on the economy north and south and in Britain, it could have security implications as well,’ Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Thursday, on a visit in Kilkenny to launch the redevelopment of former Smithwick’s Brewery site with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/ The Irish Times
Mr Varadkar said Britain leaving the EU without a deal will seriously hit the economies of Northern Ireland and Republic, as well as having security and constitutional implications.
He rejected claims from those in favour of Brexit that he was engaging in a “Project Fear” campaign.
“In terms of fear, I think we should be afraid of a no-deal Brexit,” he said in Kilkenny on Thursday. “A no-deal Brexit would have very serious impacts on the economy north and south and in Britain, it could have security implications as well and it could have constitutional implications so it is something that we have to prepare for nonetheless, but it is something that we should be afraid of.”
He also defended his relations with the DUP after its leader Arlene Foster asked him to “dial down the rhetoric”.
“Just in terms of engagement I have never refused a meeting request from the DUP, I’ve never refused a phone call from Arlene either and she has my number so I wouldn’t accept that criticism at all, what I would point out though is that when it comes to negotiations on Brexit they happen between the European Union, including Ireland, on the one hand and the UK government on the other.
“No political party is involved in these negotiations, they are inter-governmental by nature and I’ve spoken to the new Prime Minister by phone and I invited him to come to Dublin to talk about these matters some more without any preconditions so that’s really an invitation for him to decide on.”
He also said any “heightened rhetoric” on Brexit isn’t coming from Dublin.
“There is a certain irony in being accused of that when I really think that the rhetoric and language that has come from the Irish Government has been very measured and very consistent over the last couple of years.
“In terms of what we’re seeing now in the British press that’s not the first time we’ve seen that, we saw evidence of that a few years ago as well, when we were at a sensitive point of negotiations. Really my attitude to that is that when people start to criticise you personally or attack your character, it’s because they don’t really want to engage with you on the substance of the issues.”
When asked if he is concerned about the impartiality of the new British prime minister Boris Johnson in the talks to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland, given the Conservative government in Westminster is reliant on the DUP for support, Mr Varadkar said: “I think that remains to be seen, he’s only just started in the job and I think we need to give him fair wind and a decent chance, we shouldn’t also ignore what’s there in the Good Friday Agreement and I hear a lot of talk about the Good Friday Agreement in recent weeks and months.
“I often wonder if some of the people who quote the Good Friday Agreement have actually read it, and the Good Friday Agreement is very explicit that the sovereign government, the UK government must be rigorously impartial in how it administers Northern Ireland and we all need to respect the fact that the aspirations of both unionist people and nationalist people are equal.”