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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

EU will have upper hand in post-Brexit trade talks, Varadkar warns Johnson

The Taoiseach is meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Dublin this morning.

Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar earlier this year in Dublin.
Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar earlier this year in Dublin.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has warned the UK that the EU will have the upper hand in post-Brexit trade talks.

In a footballing analogy, he warned that the EU has a “stronger team” because of its far larger population and market in comparison.

Varadkar also suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may run out of time to get a trade deal signed before the end of the year when the transition period finishes.

The Taoiseach spoke to the BBC ahead of meeting with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Dublin today.

Varadkar and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee are meeting Barnier today in government buildings. 

They will discuss implementing the Irish protocol as part of the withdrawal agreement, which sets out to prevent a hard border, guarantee citizens’ rights and protect the Good Friday Agreement.

The meeting is taking place just days before the UK formally leaves the EU this Friday. 

“The European Union is a union of 27 member states. The UK is only one country. And we have a population and a market of 450 million people,” Varadkar said.

The UK, it’s about 60 [million]. So if these were two teams up against each other playing football, who do you think has the stronger team?

Johnson has repeatedly ruled out requesting an extension to the transition period, during which the UK abides by EU rules, past 31 December.

But Varadkar, whose talks with Johnson were seen as key in securing a breakthrough on the exit pact, questioned whether it would be possible to negotiate a full trade deal in time, saying “it will be difficult to do this”.

And he warned against any attempt by the UK to broker parts of a deal over time with the EU.

“When I hear people talk about piecemeal, it sounds a bit like cake and eat,” he said.

“That isn’t something that will fly in Europe.”

With reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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