Pence voices support for Johnson in Brexit talks after Varadkar meeting

Hard border would have a ‘deeply destructive’ impact on Ireland, Varadkar says

US vice-president Mike Pence meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin amid controversy about his decision to stay in President Trump’s Doonbeg golf course during his visit to Ireland.

 

US vice-president Mike Pence expressed support for UK prime minister Boris Johnson in the ongoing Brexit negotiations following his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Farmleigh, Mr Pence said Ireland and the European Union should “negotiate in good faith with prime minister Johnson and to work to reach an agreement to respect UK sovereignty and minimise disruption to commerce”.

“The United States supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in Brexit,” he said, though he added that the Good Friday Agreement needed to be respected.

For his part Mr Varadkar said the impact that a hard border would have on Ireland would be substantial and “deeply destructive”.

“That is why we must stand our ground on the Withdrawal Agreement; an agreement which was carefully negotiated to overcome all these risks,” he said.

He asked Mr Pence “to bring the message back to Washington with you”.

Later, ahead of a meeting in the US ambassador’s residence, asked if the Good Friday Agreement needed to be in place in order for the US to sign a trade agreement with Britain, he said: “Let me leave the details to others,” adding that the US would continue to affirm the importance of the accord.

He also said that the United States “respects the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union”.

Unexpected support

The robust support for Britain from the vice-president during the second day of his visit had not been expected. But Government sources stressed they were “very satisfied” that the private discussions between Mr Pence and Mr Varadkar had reinforced the role of the US as a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. In particular, the Taoiseach pointed out that a majority in Northern Ireland supported the backstop.

Mr Pence also thanked the Irish Government for the role played by Shannon Airport as an “important hub” for the US.

“We are grateful for that Irish hospitality for our troops as they deploy and they come home,” he said.

Cybersecurity was also discussed. Mr Pence warned that allies needed to find other 5G options to Huawei, the Chinese telecoms provider which has a strong presence in Ireland. A Government spokesman said it had made a submission in relation to the development of 5G networks to the European Commission, and that the EU would be making a joint response to this issue towards the end of this year.

The vice-president, who flies to London on Wednesday, began his visit to Dublin with a meeting at Áras an Uachtaráin. President Michael D Higgins emphasised the need for “continued multilateral co-operation” to address global and regional challenges.

He also raised the migration crisis with the vice-president during their meeting – a contentious issue in the United States where the Trump administration has embraced a zero-tolerance policy on immigration.

Trump hotel

Mr Pence also defended his decision to stay in Mr Trump’s golf hotel in Doonbeg during his visit to Ireland following widespread criticism in the US. Mr Pence said the choice was “logical” and was chosen to accommodate the “unique footprint” that comes with the security detail and other personnel needed. Mr Pence is travelling with a 300-strong entourage. Earlier, his chief of staff said Mr Trump had suggested the vice-president stay at the hotel, though he said this wasn’t a “request” or a “command”.

Mr Trump has faced accusations of conflicts of interests over his business affairs since becoming US president. His suggestion last month that his resort in Miami could be a venue for next year’s G7 summit provoked outrage from his opponents.