Irish Prime Minister threatens to veto Brexit trade talks over border impasse

Posted On: 
17th November 2017

Leo Varadkar has said he is willing to veto trade talks between the EU and Britain unless he gets written guarantees there will be no return to a hard border in Ireland.

Leo Varadkar had breakfast with Theresa May this morning.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Irish Taoiseach also said Brexiteers had "not thought all this through" when they campaigned for the UK to quit the bloc.

Brussels bosses have insisted that significant progress must be made on the Irish border, as well as citizens' rights and the Brexit divorce bill, at next months's EU council summit before negotiations can move on to trade.

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But speaking in Gothenburg ahead of a breakfast meeting with Theresa May, Mr Varadkar said: "We’ve been given assurances that there will be no hard border in Ireland, that there won’t be any physical infrastructure, that we won’t go back to the borders of the past. We want that written down in practical terms in the conclusions of phase one."

He added: "It’s 18 months since the referendum. It’s 10 years since people who wanted a referendum started agitating for one. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like they have thought all this through.

"Britain, having unilaterally taken the customs union and single market off the table, before we move to phase two talks on trade we want taken off the table any suggestion that there will be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland."

Meanwhile, Ireland's foreign minister has suggested a post-Brexit transition period of up to five years will be needed, rather than the two years the UK has proposed.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin with Boris Johnson, Simon Coveney said there is “a sense of jumping into the dark".

"Yes we all want to move onto phase two of the Brexit negotiations but we are not in a place right now that allows us to do that," he said.

"We are in the heat of the negotiations right now and, of course, we want to move on to the negotiations on trade, but there are issues that need more clarity.

"This is a very fundamental change in the relationship between Ireland and Britain and Britain and the EU and it will require significant adjustment.

"The appropriate timetable is closer to four or five years than it is to two."

He added: “We simply don't see how we can avoid border infrastructure.

"Once standards change it creates differences between the two jurisdictions and a different rule book.

"When you have a different rule book you are starting to go down the route of having to have checks."