WATCH: Irish PM ‘confused and puzzled’ by UK Brexit plans
Ireland's prime minister has said he is “confused and puzzled” about what Britain wants from its future trading relationship with the European Union.
Leo Varadkar said the current arrangement between both sides is the “best one imaginable”, and that attempts to cherry-pick the benefits without the current responsibilities is “not realistic”.
When asked about fears of a potential hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Taoiseach told Bloomberg News:
"I suppose where we’re confused and puzzled is very much at the premise of your question. What trade agreement does the United Kingdom want with the European Union?
"At the moment they have the best trade deal possible, the best one imaginable which is the customs union and access to the single European market and the European Economic Area.
"What they seem to be suggesting, all along really, from the last 14 months now is that they want to have all the advantages from being in the EU but none of the responsibilities and costs and that’s not a realistic position so we’re waiting to see what they would like to see."
Mr Varadkar was speaking on a visit to Canada, which recently concluded a trade deal with the EU after years of negotiations.
“When Britain leaves the European Union, it’s not only leaving the European Union, it’s leaving all of those trade agreements that Europe has made with countries like Canada, Japan, South Korea, so it’s not yet clear to us, 'what are these better deals the British government really wants from European and other countries?' and I think some more clarity in that area would be very helpful.”
He added that while there had been some progress on the border issue, much more needed to be achieved before talks would go beyond the initial three areas to be resolved – the Irish border; citizens' rights and any divorce bill.
“We’re not satisfied with the progress that has been made so far,” he said. “We hope more progress can be made, but to date progress has not been sufficient,” he added.
The UK government last week laid out its intention to keep an open border between the two states in a bid to ensure "frictionless" trade can continue.
Dublin hit back however, with Mark Daly, a senator for the governing Fine Gael, branding an open border a “smugglers charter” in the case where Britain had a differing trade policy.
"If there is trade differentials between the UK and other non-European partners, our border would be a back door into Europe, so people would import goods that are cheaper under tariff arrangements with the UK and then bring them into the Republic and then onto the EU,” he said.