Taoiseach calls for more realistic proposals on Brexit from May

Leo Varadkar expresses concerns about aspects of British PM’s latest Brexit speech

Reacting to a speech on Brexit made by Britain’s prime minister Theresa May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he remains concerned  some of the constraints of leaving the customs union and single market are still not fully recognised. File photograph: Getty Images

Reacting to a speech on Brexit made by Britain’s prime minister Theresa May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he remains concerned some of the constraints of leaving the customs union and single market are still not fully recognised. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed concern that British prime minister Theresa May still does not fully recognise constraints around the UK leaving the EU customs union and single market.

Responding to Ms May’s latest major speech on Brexit, Mr Varadkar called for “more detailed and realistic proposals” from the UK given the time constraints to reach a agreement with the EU later this year in time for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in March 2019.

Mr Varadkar, in a statement, welcomed Ms May’s “important reassurances” of seeking a very close relationship with the EU and to the EU-UK political agreement in December to avoid a hard border.

But he acknowledged that her speech recognised that the UK would “face hard choices” given constraints between some of the UK’s objectives and the consequences of withdrawing from the EU.

Cautioned

A close EU-UK economic relationship was “very much in the interests of Irish business, as is a smooth transition period”, the Taoiseach said, but he cautioned: “I remain concerned that some of the constraints of leaving the customs union and single market are still not fully recognised.

“We will now need to see more details and realistic proposals from the UK. Brexit is due to happen in a little over 12 months, so time is short,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Ms May’s speech offered “no more than empty rhetoric and contradictory positions” and that she has “failed to grasp the hard truths and the realities that we face”.

The UK government knows Brexit acts against the Irish economy and undermines Irish agreements, she said, and “that is why they have failed to bring forward any workable solutions or new thinking”.

‘Bad news’

Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly said Ms May had “ignored completely” the EU’s proposals for Northern Ireland this week, reiterated technological solutions for the Border that “don’t exist and have already been dismissed”, and “talked in stronger terms about different regulations and tariffs”.

“That is bad news for Ireland in terms of the all-island economy but particularly the Border,” he said.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond, chair of the Seanad committee on Brexit, called Ms May’s speech “a step in the right direction” and welcomed its “warm” and “positive” tone, but said that it was still light on detail.

Specifics

“We are still a little far away from getting the specifics,” he said. “Do we exactly know what Brexit is going to look like? No. Do we have a better idea? A little bit.

“The most reassuring thing is that she really did make it quite clear that the no-deal option isn’t one they are even taking into account. Given the voice of rabid Brexiteers, that is particularly welcome,” he said.

John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, said it was “encouraging” that Ms May was “putting some more meat on the bone of what the UK actually wants” and moving forward with “a more conciliatory tone towards the EU’s demands”.