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London must heed Northern Ireland decision to elect two Remain MEPs, says Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives for an EU summit in Brussels yesterday
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives for an EU summit in Brussels yesterday

By David Young, PA

The result of the European election in Northern Ireland has been heard in Brussels and must be heard in London, the Taoiseach has said.

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Irish leader Leo Varadkar described the election of two Remain candidates compared to one Brexiteer as "really significant".

Mr Varadkar highlighted that those two candidates - Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and the Alliance Party's Naomi Long - also supported the withdrawal agreement's Irish border backstop.

The DUP's Diane Dodds, a Brexiteer and critic of the backstop, was the other candidate elected as MEP.

The Taoiseach commented on the outcome of the vote here as he attended a European Council meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

"What I think is really significant, and I hope this has been noticed in Britain, is the result of the European elections in Northern Ireland, where for 40 years there have been two unionists and one nationalist," Mr Varadkar said.

"That is no longer the case. There is one unionist, one Alliance MEP and one nationalist.

"So, two out of the three of the MEPs elected in Northern Ireland supporting the European Union and supporting the backstop and I hope that hasn't been missed as a fact by the British Government and the wider British people."

He added: "Two out of three support Northern Ireland remaining in the European Union, two out of three support the backstop, I have heard that message - I hope the British Government and British people have heard that message too, because it has been heard here in Brussels."

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster indicated the election result had changed nothing.

"It's time Leo realised that the best way to a deal as we exit the EU is to address the flaws in the withdrawal agreement. Compromise should not be seen as weakness," she said.

"It was a UK question. Respect the referendum.

"Northern Ireland had two Remain MEPs before the election too," she added.

Mr Varadkar also reiterated his concerns that events in London with the Conservative Party leadership contest had increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

"I think there is a growing risk of no-deal," he said.

"As I said a few days ago there is the possibility that the new British Prime Minister may try to repudiate the withdrawal agreement. There is also the possibility of course that there may be a new British Government that might follow a different course, a more European course.

"I can't predict either of those things. But what I can say is the European Union and Ireland will stand firm in our position that there can't be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and we need a legal treaty guarantee of that."

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