Varadkar to meet British PM as Brexit talks begin in Brussels

Taoiseach to stress ‘rights and freedoms’ of Irish citizens and importance of open Border

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet British prime minister Theresa May in London this afternoon and tell her Brexit must not adversely affect the "rights and freedoms" of Irish citizens.

Mr Varadkar's first visit to the UK as Taoiseach coincides with the commencement of negotiations in Brussels on its departure from the European Union, as well as the resumption of talks in Belfast between Northern Ireland's political parties aimed at restoring the Stormont Executive.

"We will discuss Northern Ireland and the need to re-establish devolved government, and Brexit, focusing on how we can avoid any adverse impact on the rights and freedoms of our citizens, on trade and the economy," he said.

In talks with Ms May, Mr Varadkar will stress the importance of keeping an open Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, maintaining the Common Travel Area and protecting the peace process.


‘Common citizenship’

He is also expected to advocate the preservation of “common citizenship” arrangements allowing Irish and British citizens the right to live, work and access welfare in each other’s countries.

A delegation led by UK Brexit secretary David Davis will meet the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team in the European Commission's Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels today for discussions.

British chancellor Philip Hammond said yesterday no deal would be a "very, very bad outcome" but he would not agree to a deal that would "destroy" Britain.

Radical change

“It’s a statement of common sense that if we are going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not a cliff edge,” he told BBC One’s

Andrew Marr Show


Meanwhile, the DUP's Ian Paisley jnr, MP for North Antrim, said his party wants out of the customs union.

“You can’t be half-pregnant. We are either in or out of the EU,” he said. “Issues about the Border are a distinct issue that can be resolved if will is there to do it and in spite of all the gibberish about the problems associated with it, the will is there to ensure the Border works for trade.”

Separately, Sinn Féin's chairman Declan Kearney, MLA for South Antrim, called on the Irish Government to "publicly disassociate itself from the pro-Unionist, partisan position of the British government" on Northern Ireland.

Mr Kearney claimed the DUP was “living in a fool’s paradise” if it believed the Northern institutions could be re-established “without adherence to equality and rights”.