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'It doesn’t seem like they thought all this through' - Taoiseach talks tough to UK on Brexit

Leo Varadkar says he wants talk of hard borders “off the table” before things move forward.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has laid down some tough Brexit demands on his way into a European Union summit in Sweden.

The EU’s heads of state are meeting in Gothenburg to discuss social rights within the union but a doorstop interview between journalists and Varadkar was dominated by the issue of Brexit.

Sweden EU Summit Jobs Taoiseach Leo Varadkar shows his socks to Uk Prime Minister Theresa May. Source: Virginia Mayo/PA Images

Before UK-EU negotiations move onto the crucial issue of trade, parties must agree that sufficient progress has been made on three key issues: the UK’s exit bill, the Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain.

A gap has been developing between Ireland and the UK over whether talks are at a point where the parties can move forward.

This “impasse” was evident at a meeting between UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney earlier this morning.

Doubling-down on Ireland’s position that more work needs to be done before phase two of the Brexit talks, Varadkar said Ireland wants any kind of physical border “off the table” before that.

Needless to say my main concern as Taoiseach, as Prime Minister of Ireland, and we’ve been talking for 18 months and we’ve been given assurances now for 18 months since the referendum, is that there’ll be no hard border. That there’ll be no physical infrastructure, that we won’t go back to the borders of the past. And we want that written down in practical terms at the conclusion of phase one.

“Obviously we’re open to alternative proposals but we need that in the conclusions,” he added.

PastedImage-22771 Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in Gothenburg. Source: European Commission

The Taoiseach was asked whether this, in effect, meant that the UK would have to remain within the EU’s customs union. He denied this was necessarily the case.

“I don’t think that’s hugely divergent from the UK position that they would like to enter into a customs partnership with the EU after Brexit. What we want to do is set the parameters for the talks about trade.”

The UK have put forward a customs partnership or a customs partnership union, as it’s referred to in one of their documents, between the UK and the EU. We’d like to tease out what that means.

“We want it taken off the table any suggestion that there will be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland.”

“It’s 18 months since the referendum, it’s 10 years since people who wanted a referendum started agitating for one. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like they thought all this through,” he added.

Sweden EU Summit Jobs An Taoiseach's hurling-themed socks next to Theresa May's leopard print shoes. Source: Virginia Mayo/PA Images

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also met with Boris Johnson today and agreed with the assertion from the Taoiseach that much of the plans of Brexiteers were not well thought out.

“They use this language, ‘we need to have control. we need to be part of a big global world free trade’ et cetera, et cetera. But there is no sense of any blueprint for that. There is no sense of people having worked through the practical implications of all that. And that was clear this morning,” Martin said.

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

As well as the meeting of the EU leaders, Varadkar met bilaterally with UK Prime Minister Theresa May this morning.

Following their meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The two leaders held constructive discussions on Brexit and looked forward to making further progress in the run-up to the December European Council.”

Read: Boris Johnson and Simon Coveney weren’t singing from the same hymn sheet in Dublin this morning >

Read: Britain’s government has survived the first parliamentary challenges to its Brexit bill >

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Rónán Duffy

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