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Donald Tusk welcomes Ireland's 'young, energetic' new Taoiseach to Brussels

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels today.

Updated at 8.48am, 23 June

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk used John Lennon earlier today to express his feelings on Brexit.

Speaking at a press conference, Tusk spoke of how some of his British friends have asked if the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union could be reversed:

“I told them that, in fact, the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve.”

He went on to quote from John Lennon’s imagine:

So, who knows? You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one.

Tusk insisted the remaining 27 members had a renewed sense of optimism about the bloc’s future after years of crisis and mounting anti-EU sentiment.

Despite it being his 80th summit as premier or EU head, “never before have I had such a strong belief that things are going in a better direction,” he said.

“Our optimism should still be extremely cautious but we have good reason to talk about it,” Tusk said, stressing that the EU is well-prepared for the difficult Brexit process.

This European Council – the institution consisting of EU heads of states and tasked with setting the Union’s policy agenda – summit is Leo Varadkar’s first as Taoiseach. He has met with Tusk (who described him as ‘young, energetic’) as well as Jean-Claude Juncker, with meetings with prime ministers such as Germany’s Angela Merkel scheduled later.

The agenda will be dominated by Brexit, but also cover the start of the process of moving two UK-based agencies – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Banking Authority (EBA).

 

Varadker echoed Tusk’s positive sentiments about the state of the European Union – citing a renewed sense of unity and a strong economy – despite the challenges of Brexit, immigration, and terrorism.

He stressed that although the UK has strong objectives, so does Ireland, and efforts will be made to avoid ‘an economic border’.

PastedImage-76141 Source: European Union

“Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish policy,” the Taoiseach said, saying that Ireland will strive to maintain a normal trading relationship and to “reaffirm” citizens’ rights to live, work, study, and access welfare in both countries as normal.

Varadkar also spoke briefly on the need to boost confidence between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and on the renewed possibility that Ireland’s long-standing policy of neutrality could be affected by efforts to more closely align European militaries.

He said that Ireland’s neutrality, and the fact that we’re not a member of an alliance like Nato, has been beneficial to how the country is viewed across the world.

Having said that, cooperation around security and defence is changing. The threats that we now face in the world are less about wars between countries and more about threats created by terrorism, by extremists, and by cyber attacks. Those are not areas where we should neutral, we should be very much involved in working with European partners to prevent cyber attacks, to manage migration, and stand against terrorism.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Nicky Ryan

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