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Brexit: Republic of Ireland will stand fast on matching customs rules

By David Young, PA

The Republic is determined to hold firm on the demand for matching customs rules north and south of the border post-Brexit, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar said the proposal to avoid a hard border was backed by all members of the EU 27, but he made clear that even if there was a softening of stance among other European leaders, he would not back down.

"We have the absolute support of the other European Union member states that are remaining," he told the Dail.

"We have not come under any pressure as yet to soften our position.

"However, I am not so naive as to think that that may not occur. We will avoid at any cost being isolated. However, even if we are isolated, we have to hold to this position, in my view."

Responding to claims that the UK and Irish governments' relationship has markedly deteriorated due to their opposing views on how to manage the border, Mr Varadkar insisted personal relations remained "very good".

He added that Dublin "wants to protect our national interests, not only those relating to trade between Britain and Ireland but our national interests in respect of Northern Ireland as well".

He predicted a "difficult few weeks and months ahead" in the Brexit talks.

"This is potentially a historic decision for us," he said.

Europe is calling for a solution that would see Northern Ireland continue to comply with the EU's regulatory framework, to enable the retention of a free-flowing border.

Mr Varadkar told TDs: "We think it can be best achieved if the United Kingdom, either on behalf of all of the UK or on behalf of Northern Ireland, commits to regulatory equivalence - that is to say, that we will operate the same rules and regulations.

"Without doing that, it is almost impossible to avoid some form of hard border."

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