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Taoiseach thanks US House Speaker for Brexit position: 'Nancy Pelosi's words matter'

Varadkar said her standpoint during a testing time in the Brexit negotiations “was timely, invaluable, and made a huge difference”.

Image: Niall Carson

Christina Finn reporting from Washington DC

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR paid tribute to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at an event in Washington DC this evening thanking her for drawing a red line that a trade deal between the US and the EU would not happen if the Good Friday Agreement was in jeopardy.

Speaking at the Irish Funds Gala this evening, he said her standpoint during a testing time in the Brexit negotiations “was timely, invaluable, and made a huge difference”.

During a visit to Ireland and the UK last April, Pelosi said a US-UK trade deal was “not on the cards… don’t even think about it” if there was any threat to the border.

US President Donald Trump had indicated that a deal would be on the table post-Brexit, but Pelosi said he would not get such a move approved by Congress. 

Using strong language, Pelosi said during her “high-level” meetings in the UK she the US position clear.

“Your words in Dublin that day were heard in London, Washington, Paris, Berlin and Brussels. And it made a difference. Some people say they’re just words but  Nancy Pelosi’s matter,” Varadkar said this evening.
Pelosi received the Ireland Funds’ Distinguished Leadership Award this evening.

“It is richly deserved,”said Varadkar, who said in Ireland she is known as someone who always speaks her mind and her faith “in the power of politics to improve lives shines through. With you the image matches the reality”.

His comments come after US President Donald Trump said he would not be attending the House Speaker’s lunch tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi and Trump’s relationship has been fraught since the impeachment proceedings. During Trump’s State of the Union speech recently, Pelosi tore up the president’s speech.

Varadkar also spoke about his support for Emma de Souza and Northern Irish citizenship protection at the gala event tonight.

Varadkar said the Good Friday Agreement protects the citizenship and identity rights of all of those born in Northern Ireland – and includes the right of people to identify as British or Irish or both.   

“Emma de Souza has sought to have her right to be an Irish citizen upheld by British laws and I want to welcome her here this evening.   

“Emma, we support you in your fight. It is a fight for the spirit, not just the letter, of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. 

De Souza has lodged a challenge in the Court of Appeal in Belfast to a ruling that those born in the region are automatically British citizens.

She won a case against the UK’s Home Office in 2017 after it deemed she was British when her US-born husband Jake applied for a residence card.

But in October an immigration tribunal upheld an appeal brought by the Home Office.

Government lawyers argued that people born in Northern Ireland are British citizens according to the 1981 British Nationality Act, even if they identify as Irish.

The Good Friday Agreement allows people to identify as British, Irish or both, but the Home Office says the agreement did not supersede the 1981 British Nationality Act.

Varadkar also spoke about Brexit, stating he wants the EU and UK to have “close and productive a partnership”.

He also spoke about the threat of coronavirus, stating that there is close co-operation between the Irish and Northern Ireland Health Ministers and Chief Medical Officers in the face of the Covid 19 situation.

He said it reminds us all of the importance and value of co-operation between authorities on the island of Ireland. 

Tomorrow, Leo Varadkar will have breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting is close to the media for the second year. Varadkar will then meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, followed by the Shamrock Ceremony in the White House.   

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Leo Varadkar’s visit to Washington DC this week, including his meeting with US President Donald Trump tomorrow.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@TJ_Politics  and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page

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