US-Canada border would not work in Ireland, Varadkar says

Taoiseach to look at post-Brexit Border options during ‘fact-finding’ Canadian visit

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Christinne Muschi/Reuters

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has cast doubt on claims that the border between the United States and Canada could be used as a model for the Irish Border after Brexit.

The US-Canadian crossing has been held up as an example for how the Irish border could operate after Britain leaves the EU by some of those in favour of Brexit.

Mr Varadkar – who insists a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is unacceptable – will inspect posts between the US and Canada on Tuesday.

Although he said he is on a fact-finding mission, he sounded doubtful about whether it could be applied in Ireland.

“I have heard some people who are promoters of Brexit using it as an example of a solution that could work in Ireland,” Mr Varadkar said of the US-Canada border.

“I have heard them describe it as a soft border, I wonder if that is the case? There are people who have told me it’s not. There are passport checks and customs checks and when I flew in from the US I had to fill in a customs form.”

The Taoiseach travelled to Canada from the US, where he had been holidaying.

Brexit negotiations

The issue of the Border with Northern Ireland is a key element of the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. It is one of a number of issues on which the EU must deem sufficient progress has been made before the Brexit talks move on to future trade between the UK and EU.

UK Brexit secretary David Davis, however, has said that the Border and the future trading relationship are “inextricably linked” in an attempt to tie the two issued together in the Brexit talks.

Mr Varadkar described this as “common sense” but said that he differed from Mr Davis on the fact that the EU and UK already have a trade agreement in the shape of the customs union and single market.

Mr Varadkar also said he “doubted” that other members of the EU would allow the Brexit talks to progress to the trade stage unless Ireland was happy with progress on Irish specific issues.

Three key issues

The EU has identified Ireland as one of three key issues, along with the so-called financial divorce settlement and the rights of EU and UK citizens, that must be progressed satisfactorily before trade talks commence.

“That will be our decision. We will decide whether the UK has made sufficient progress when it comes to citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and issues pertaining to Ireland and only if we are satisfied that sufficient progress has been made on those three areas will we then give the go-ahead to talk about trade,” Mr Varadkar said.

“So I think that puts us in a strong position so I doubt our European colleagues would come to the view that sufficient progress had been made if we didn’t think so.”

Speaking at a Tourism Ireland lunch on Monday, Mr Varadkar also said he is “absolutely convinced” there will be no passport checks after Brexit.

“Whatever happens with Brexit, what I am absolutely convinced will not happen is that free movement of individuals, free movement of people, will not change, North and South without passports,” he said.

“Trade borders have still to be negotiated but there is absolute consensus in Dublin, London, Belfast and Brussels that passport free travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland should continue and will continue.”