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Varadkar reiterates need to avoid hard border on island of Ireland during phonecall with Sunak
During the conversation, the Taoiseach repeated the need for a solution which avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 23rd 2023, 7:11 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have spoken by phone this afternoon. 

The two leaders discussed a range of issues including restoring the democratic institutions in Northern Ireland, the ongoing EU-UK negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and British-Irish relations more broadly.

Varadkar and Sunak recognised the importance of the ongoing engagement between the EU and the UK on the Protocol.

During the conversation, the Taoiseach repeated the need for a solution which avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and protects the integrity of the single market.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by the UK and EU in 2019 as a way to unlock the logjam over securing a Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Designed as a means to keep the Irish land border free-flowing, it moved regulatory and customs checks on goods to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Many unionists in Northern Ireland are vehemently opposed to arrangements they claim have weakened the region’s place within the union.

The DUP is currently blocking the functioning of powersharing at Stormont and has made clear it will not allow devolution to return unless major changes to the Protocol are delivered.

Speaking earlier today, Tánaiste Micheál Martin stressed that the UK Government and European Commission still had to overcome challenges if a deal was to be struck.

Martin said it was “no bad thing” that not much detail was emerging from the process on the state of the negotiations.

“I think the issues are challenging and I think the engagement is important,” he said.

“I think we all welcome the fact that the EU negotiating team and United Kingdom’s negotiating team have been engaging and continue to engage on the issue.

“And we would hope that those negotiations would be successful but they are very challenging, both for the UK government and for the European Union side.

“So, I’ve never understated the challenges that face them, but the important aspect of this is that they are talking and I do believe they should be allowed space to continue the negotiations.”

Varadkar and Sunak also spoke today about the positive cooperation between the EU, UK and US in responding to the war on Ukraine, and the Taoiseach recognised the UK’s leadership role on the matter. 

Varadkar reiterated Ireland’s concerns about the UK’s legacy legislation and the impact of the proposed introduction of Electronic Travel Authorisation on third country nationals travelling across the border.

With reporting by Press Association

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