UK risks becoming ‘shadow of its former self,’ Leo Varadkar warns

Brexit: Tánaiste says British Bill was ‘a mistake’ and UK should ‘reconsider it’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during a tour of the K-Leisure facility in Naas, Co Kildare. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during a tour of the K-Leisure facility in Naas, Co Kildare. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


The United Kingdom risks becoming “a shadow of its former self” if the British government proceeds with a law that breaches the Brexit withdrawal treaty, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Fine Gael leader said that the UK’s proposed Internal Market Bill was a “mistake” and hoped that Boris Johnson’s government would “reconsider” proceeding with the legislation.

The EU and UK are at odds over the British domestic legislation that the UK government has admitted would breach international law and violate the Brexit withdrawal treaty signed this year.

The UK Bill proposes changes on state aid rules and export declarations that would undermine the parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty agreed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Varadkar told reporters at an event in Co Kildare that if the legislation was a negotiating tactic in the deadlocked talks on a future EU-UK trade deal, then it “has now backfired”.

Countries “all around the world” including the US were questioning whether the UK was a country with which it could conduct any deal or treaty with in future, the Tánaiste said.

Former UK prime ministers such as Tony Blair, John Major and David Cameron were not just opposed to the Bill but so too were “hardline Brexiteers” such as Lord Lamont and Lord Howard who want a UK that can negotiate trade deals but who were now saying “this isn’t Brexit”, he said.

“If the United Kingdom becomes a country that no longer honours treaties, that doesn’t respect international law, well there is no country that is going to want to deal with them,” he said.

Mr Varadkar expects the Bill to have “a rough ride” in the House of Commons and there was a “high probability” that the House of Lords would reject it, making it hard for it to advance.

The “most benign view” was that the Bill was introduced as a negotiating tactic in the talks with the UK on a future trade agreement post-Brexit.

“If it is not a negotiating tactic, it means that Britain has become a very different country and that Britain has become one of those few countries in Europe that doesn’t honour treaties and doesn’t respect international law,” he said.

“It would be a really great shame for a country like the United Kingdom, a really great country, to become a shadow of its former self in that way.”