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All smiles as Varadkar and Merkel talk Brexit on Taoiseach's first trip to Berlin

Merkel was recently elected as chancellor for the fourth time.

Updated 2 pm 

Irish PM Leo Varadkar in Berlin Today was Varadkar's first visit to Berlin as Taoiseach. Source: DPA/PA Images

LEO VARADKAR HAS met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of his first visit to Berlin since being elected Taoiseach.

After their meeting, the pair held a joint press conference in the German capital at which the ongoing Brexit negotiations were the primary focus.

Ahead of the meeting, the Taoiseach’s department said discussions would focus on the agenda for this week’s meeting of the European Council which includes Brexit, trade and digital taxation.

Germany is Ireland’s second largest source of inward investment, third largest source of tourists, fourth largest overall trading partner, and fifth largest food export market.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Varadkar said: “I look forward to my first visit to Berlin as Taoiseach, and to congratulating the Chancellor on her re-election. We have a lot of work to do together, both bilaterally and within our shared European Union.”

The meeting also comes a day after the EU and the UK agreed that the so-called backstop for the Irish border, agreed in December, must be made legally binding.

GERMANY-IRELAND-EU-DIPLOMACY Merkel was recently elected as German Chancellor for a fourth time. Source: Getty Images

The backstop option would mean alignment between the north and south for customs, VAT, energy, regulations for the protection of the environment and laws governing agriculture and fisheries. Northern Ireland would also have to adhere to EU rules on State Aid and would be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in those aforementioned areas.

The backstop agreement was known as ‘Option C’ with regard to the Northern Irish border – one of three options laid out in the Joint Report agreed by the UK and the EU in December.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: UK and EU agree on Brexit ‘backstop’ solution for the Irish border >

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