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EU leaders are hoping for Brexit 'miracles' but Leo thinks there's a 'better vibe' around talks

But the Taoiseach could be heading for a clash with Emmanuel Macron on tax issues.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking to reporters in Tallinn.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking to reporters in Tallinn.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said there’s a “better vibe” around Brexit negotiations but that a lot more work needs to be done to advance the tortuous process.

Varadkar was speaking on his way into meeting of EU leaders in Estonia at which they hope to speed up talks between the UK and the EU.

The leaders are set to decide at a summit on 19-20 October whether there has been “sufficient progress” on three key issues: the UK’s exit bill, the fate of Northern Ireland, and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain.

Only when sufficient progress has been made on these issues will the divorce talks move onto the crucial issue of trade.

British politicians are keen to start talking about trade but European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said it would take “miracles” for that to happen next month.

“By the end of October we will not have sufficient progress,” Juncker said as he arrived for the second day of the summit.

I’m saying there will be no sufficient progress from now until October unless miracles will happen.

Varadkar sounded more positive than Juncker but also stressed that trade talks are some way off.

“On Brexit there’s definitely a better vibe and a better mood coming out of negotiations between Michel Bariner and David Davis, but I think it’s still very evident that works need to be done,” Varadkar said.

We’re not yet at a stage where sufficient progress has been made to allow us to talk about the new relationship on trade and I don’t think we’ll be able to make that call until later in the month.

leo 1 Source: European Commission

Despite the concerns, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted there had been “very good progress” on the rights of EU expatriates, following a major Brexit speech she gave in Florence, Italy, last week.

“That has been part of the negotiations that we’ve had, very good progress has been made, that was made clear by the statements made by David Davis and Michel Barnier yesterday,” she said.

EU negotiator Barnier and his British counterpart Davis wrapped up a fourth round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels yesterday saying there had been progress following May’s speech, but with Barnier saying it could take “months” to move to trade discussions.

Outnumbered

Although Brexit is never far from the discussion, the talks in Tallinn are supposed to be devoted to the digital future of Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to push sceptical counterparts to overhaul tax rules so that more of the profits from Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google fall into Europe’s public coffers.

Estonia Europe Digital Summit French President Emmanuel Macron is greeted by Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas. Source: Virginia Mayo/PA Images

Varadkar was also asked about these issues given that many of these multinationals are based in Ireland.

“We discussed briefly the whole issue of digital taxation last night over dinner and the point that I made to other European leaders is that if we want to foster innovation and to make Europe a digital leader the solution isn’t more taxes and regulation,” Varadkar said.

He also denied that Ireland could be outnumbered by on the issue:

There are a number that are supporting this proposal but there are lots of other countries very similar to Ireland that would have this view, you know certainly some of the Nordic countries, the Benelux countries that would have an economy very similar to Ireland, open to trade, already very modern and very digital.

The leaders discussed the ideas — over courses of flank steak, salmon and rabbit liver — during a “good and constructive debate”, said European Council President Donald Tusk.

With reporting by © – AFP 2017

Read: The tourist industry could lose its 9% VAT rate as it’s ‘under consideration’ for Budget 2018 >

Read: ‘Never have so many trees died in vain’: Corbyn hits back at Daily Mail attacks >

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Rónán Duffy

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