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Taoiseach Varadkar 'optimistic' a Brexit deal possible despite obstacles

By Michael McHugh

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is optimistic a deal will be struck with the UK on an EU exit treaty.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has dismissed the suggestion that a no deal scenario is "more probable than it's ever been before", reiterating that it is not an aim.

He also said the UK would be aware "no deal" is coming ahead of time as he sought to play down concerns about the potential consequences.

Mr Varadkar said: "I am an optimist, I think it is going to be possible to come to an agreement with the UK on an EU exit treaty, but if it is the case that there cannot be a deal that is something that we need to be prepared for as well.

"Four times in Irish history we went on a different path to the UK: when we became independent; when we became a Republic; when we floated our own currency and when we joined the euro and Britain did not, and on each occasion we emerged more prosperous and stronger as a result.

"I am not afraid of the possibility of there being no deal but I am an optimist, I do think one is possible and will be achieved."

Mr Varadkar previously said the only way to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit would be for Northern Ireland to continue to apply the rules of the EU single market and customs union.

A leaked European Commission document last week suggested that the Republic is now pushing hard for concrete reassurance on the border question ahead of the crucial EU leaders' summit in December at which Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to gain a green light for trade talks to begin.

The one-page paper entitled Dialogue On Ireland/Northern Ireland, which was obtained by the Daily Telegraph, states that in order to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, the Brexit divorce deal must respect "the integrity of the internal market and the customs union".

Along with the question of expat citizens' rights and the UK's "divorce bill", the border is a key issue in the first stage of Brexit talks, on which "sufficient progress" must be made before the leaders of the remaining 27 EU states will give the go-ahead for trade talks.

Meanwhile, The Observer newspaper quoted European Parliament Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt as saying that the UK Government should be putting the interests of people in Northern Ireland ahead of the survival of the Conservative Party. The MEP claims that the Belfast Agreement of 1998 is threatened by Brexit.

"I hope the British Government will do what is right for all the people of Northern Ireland. The peace process should transcend domestic party politics," he said.

However, the UK Government rejected the claim, saying that "specific solutions to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland must respect the integrity of the EU single market and customs union - and must also respect the integrity of the United Kingdom."

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