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'Ireland first': Donald Tusk says every EU leader 'wants to protect peace process and avoid hard border'

The President of the European Council said disrupting the peace process in Northern Ireland “must be avoided at all costs”.

TUSK 275_90539260 Leo Varadkar and Donald Tusk at Government Buildings today Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

DONALD TUSK HAS said that every European Union leader is dedicated to protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland and avoiding a hard border with the Republic.

The President of the European Council made the comments at a joint press conference with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today.

Tusk said he has spoken to all 27 EU leaders and each one told him their priorities regarding Brexit are “protecting the peace process and avoiding the hard border”.

“The EU stands by Ireland. This is a matter between the EU 27 and the UK, not Ireland and the UK.”

Source: MerrionStreetNews/YouTube

Tusk added that while the UK’s democratic decision to leave the EU must be respected, so too must the democratically backed Good Friday Agreement – which was signed 20 years ago next month.

He said destabilising the peace process in Northern Ireland “must be avoided at all costs” and that it is up to the UK to put forward a “specific and realistic plan” to avoid a hard border.

Tusk also said that, while it is the prerogative of the UK to define what is in its best interests post-Brexit, the EU must do the same.

‘Not a beast’

In a lighter moment, Tusk opened his speech by referencing the recent bad weather, saying: “Let me assure you that I haven’t come to chill the air but rather to warm it up. I may be from the east but I am not a beast.”

Varadkar echoed Tusk’s sentiments about the border, saying the pair had an “extensive discussion over lunch” about Brexit.

He thanked Tusk for his “solid and sensible leadership on this issue” and the support the EU has shown Ireland in relation to our “unique concerns” about Brexit.

Varadkar said the European Single Market must be protected throughout the negotiations, adding that he wants “the transition period to be smooth”.

He said the EU wants a “deep, comprehensive and ambitious” relationship with the UK post-Brexit, noting the two must still work together on certain issues such as fighting terrorism and international crime.

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Órla Ryan

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