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Former UK Brexit minister claims Varadkar 'regrets' comments on post-Brexit border

David Jones MP has said that Enda Kenny’s government seemed more positive about finding solutions to the border issue.

David Jones MP said Varadkar's comments are
David Jones MP said Varadkar's comments are "not terribly helpful"
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A FORMER UK Brexit Minister has said that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was a lot more positive about finding solutions to the issue of a border in Northern Ireland after Brexit, and said that Leo Varadkar’s comments so far are “not terribly helpful”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, David Jones MP said that “a technological solution” is required on the issues of the customs union and the Irish border, but said that Enda Kenny’s government appeared more receptive to finding a collaborative solution to the problem.

“I do detect a certain change of tone since Taoiseach Varadkar came to office,” he said. “I think that’s regrettable.”

When pushed on this comment, Jones said that it seemed to him that Kenny was “well disposed” to finding a technological solution but Leo Varadkar’s speech last week “appeared to rule that out”.

Varadkar had said that it was up to the UK to put forward solutions for the handling of the border between north and south in a post-Brexit world. He went on to say that the government’s position is that there should be no border, so it will not help in designing one.

Jones said that the British and Irish economies are very closely intertwined, and that the UK’s decision to leave the EU is something that should be addressed by both governments.

I detected a change of tone subsequently in what he said and I think he may have regretted adopting such a dogmatic approach to the problem.

He said the impression he got from Kenny was that he was a lot more positive on finding “technological solutions” to the border issue.

Speaking at Queen’s University in Belfast last week, Varadkar said that the alternative to a customs union could mean a return of border posts, which he called “a brutal physical manifestation of historic divisions and political failure”.

He warned “the clock is ticking” to reach an agreement, as Britain began the two-year process of leaving the bloc in March.

When pressed on what these solutions could be, Jones referenced the border between the US and Canada, and Norway and Sweden.

Jones did, however, rule out similar posts at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

He also defended the British government’s approach to Brexit so far, despite admitting that there was no plan put in place before the referendum.

The approach has been correct… As we know no preparation was done beforehand.

He is no longer a Brexit minister after he was subject to a reshuffle immediately after the general election. Jones said that, despite being moved out, the UK government’s overall approach had not changed.

The MP added that a lot of figures “had been plucked out of the air” when it came to the bill the UK would be required to pay when it leaves the EU.

He did dispute, however, that figures given on how much Britain sends to the EU every week – the £350 million that was quoted widely in the Brexit referendum campaign, for example – were incorrect.

TheJournal.ie has asked the Irish government press office for its response to the claim from Jones that the Taoiseach “may have regretted” his approach.

Read: Varadkar says it’s ‘only a matter of time’ before North legalises same-sex marriage

Read: With young people in ‘Repeal’ jumpers beside him, Leo Varadkar was asked about the Eighth in Belfast today

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