Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Varadkar says free movement for Northern Ireland citizens to continue

(Tom Honan/PA)
(Tom Honan/PA)

By Mark Edwards

People from Northern Ireland will be able to travel anywhere within the European Union after Brexit, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach, speaking at the All-Ireland Civic Dialogue on Brexit event at Dublin Castle, said that free movement will remain for citizens of Northern Ireland but that this will not be the case for the rest of the United Kingdom.

"No matter what happens we know that Northern Ireland citizens will have the right to travel anywhere in the EU from Athens to Athenrye," he said.  "It is regrettable for British citizens that will not be the case.

"What's been remarkable is the solidarity from the EU, despite attempts to divide the 27, it has remained resolute."

It is thought the Taoiseach was referring to people who live in Northern Ireland who hold Irish passports. The Belfast Telegraph approached the Taoiseach's office to clarify the comments.

Mr Varadkar admitted that a no-deal Brexit was a very real and possible outcome but said now is not the time for a United Ireland border poll.

"I explained to President Junker the assistance Ireland will require in the event of a no-deal Brexit, for his part he emphasised that the EU stands ready to assist."

"Deal or no deal, the Government will continue to take into account the concerns of businesses all over Ireland.

"I know some people feel Brexit has changed the rules of engagement and perhaps it has, but now is not the time for border polls. It only serves to sow divisions."

The Taoiseach said he was encouraged by the inter-party talks in Belfast on restoring Stormont which are talking place on Friday.

"All Northern Ireland parties want to restore working institutions in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I welcome the fact that inter-party talks will take place today in Belfast."

However, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald called for a border poll on Irish unity if the issue of the border in Ireland is not mitigated.

Ms McDonald said: “We are six weeks out from Brexit. The British Prime Minister has effectively binned her own agreement and is counting down the clock, demanding a renegotiation in order to appease the DUP and hard-line Brexiteers.

She added: "it is time to look beyond Brexit and beyond partition. If the border cannot be mitigated, it must be removed.

“The demand for Irish unity is growing. Ireland north and south is changing. Now is the time to look the future.

“It is time for an all-Ireland conversation and forum to look to the future. To plan for all possible outcomes. To define a new and united Ireland.”

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