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Taoiseach and Tusk: 'We have not seen proposals from the UK that achieve the objectives of the backstop'

Leo Varadkar met European Council President Donald Tusk this afternoon in New York.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 23rd 2019, 5:00 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS met European Council President Donald Tusk this afternoon to take stock of the latest situation regarding Brexit.

Varadkar is currently on a week-long trip to the United States, where he is visiting New York and the west coast.

Tusk and the Taoiseach met for approximately 45 minutes today, with both men agreeing that they want a deal.

A government spokesperson said they agreed that the EU side has not seen proposals from the UK that achieve the objectives of the backstop.

They also agreed that time is very short if there is to be a positive outcome at the EU summit, taking place in mid-October.

While in New York, the Taoiseach is due to hold a number of bilateral meetings with other leaders to discuss Brexit. He is also expected to have a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.  

The Taoiseach is set to emphasise his openness to considering any British proposals for detailed, legally operable and realistic arrangements which achieve the objectives of the backstop. Those objectives are the free movement of people, goods and trade North and South, and close economic and political co-operation, said a government spokesperson, who added:

 Talks are underway between the UK and the EU Task Force and there is a desire on all sides to reach a satisfactory agreement. The EU has made clear to the UK that it is open to examining specific proposals. However, as October 31st is just a few weeks away, the time available to reach an agreement is shrinking rapidly and engagements from the UK need to step up a gear in order to reach a deal. 

A government spokesperson said all sides agree a negotiated deal is better than no deal.

“The Government is doing everything it can to prepare for no deal, but we’ll work up to the last moment to secure a deal,” they added.

Climate Summit

Today’s meeting took place against the backdrop of the UN Climate Summit. 

Varadkar is to tell the UN that all new revenues raised from carbon tax will be ringfenced by the government to fund climate action in the coming years.

It has recently been flagged that the government has moved away from the view that giving everyone a carbon cheque in the post to offset the cost of the tax, or using the tax to  increase in tax credits and welfare.

During Budget negotiations, Fianna Fáil also called for the money raised to be ring-fenced in a fund that would be devoted and allocated only for climate change protection measures. 

Having proclaimed that Ireland has been a “laggard” in the past when it comes to tackling climate change, the Taoiseach will tell the UN that leadership is required to “convince people it is not too late to act”. 

“We have a carbon tax and have a cross-party agreement to increase it to €80 per tonne by 2030,” he will say. “From next year, all new revenues raised from carbon tax will be ring-fenced to fund climate action and just transition.”

Just transition to protect those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs and for whom new jobs must be found. Climate action to fund the transformation of our transport, electricity, buildings and food production systems.

The Taoiseach comments on carbon tax will come ahead of a launch later this week of a diplomatic base in Los Angeles. 

Before travelling to LA on Wednesday, the Taoiseach will be in New York to attend the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly to promote Ireland’s candidature for a seat in the UN Security Council in 2021-2022.

While at the UN, he will also join Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as other leaders to discuss progress with the Christchurch call to action summit on tackling online terrorist content.

Varadkar said: “The Irish Government wants to work with our international counterparts and the major social media companies to halt the dissemination of violent extremist content online and to ensure when such material does appear, it is removed very quickly.”

After engagements in New York, Varadkar will travel to LA to inaugurate the new Hollywood base, which is being touted as a big resource to the Irish film industry. 

The new consulate in LA is part of the government’s Global Green initiative, which aims to open 26 new embassies and consulates by 2026.

While on his trade mission to the west coast, Varadkar will make site visits to a number of client and target companies of Screen Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

He will also have a courtesy call with Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.

With reporting from Seán Murray

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