Belfast Telegraph

UK can't 'cherry-pick' relationship with EU after Brexit: Varadkar

By Staff Reporter

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned the UK can have as close a relationship with the EU as it wants, but it cannot "cherry-pick".

The Irish Republic's leader insisted yesterday that the UK can't simply continue to take the benefits of the EU after Brexit.

He also revealed that a withdrawal agreement is set to be published in two weeks' time.

"As Chancellor (Angela) Merkel said, the UK can have as close a relationship with Europe as it wants to have. What it can't do is cherry-pick.

"The EU is a set menu restaurant, not an a la carte," he told a Brexit breakfast at Trinity College, Dublin, which was organised by Independent News and Media.

"If you're a member of the club, you're a member of the club. And if you want to be an associate member, you can't write the rules yourself. That is a circle that still needs to be squared. Within two weeks you'll see the draft of the withdrawal agreement published. That will be very interesting and will certainly crystallise things."

At the breakfast event, Mr Varadkar also spoke about Ireland needing to build new alliances in Europe ahead of the UK's departure.

"They were also a very strong ally on a lot of other questions," he said.

"We are losing a friend in that regard, also a friend in terms of tax sovereignty and countries being able to set their own tax rules."

Niall FitzGerald, the former boss of global consumer goods company Unilever, said the Irish have a responsibility to speak out on Brexit. He said the Dail needed to take an "aspirational and forceful" national strategy, that has a focus on boosting infrastructure.

He said the UK had achieved zero in its negotiations with the EU.

But he added it would be wrong to think the UK electorate would change its mind.

Mr Varadkar also questioned Prime Minister Theresa May's impartiality on the process of getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running.

He pointed to the fact that the UK Government is reliant on the DUP to keep it in power, and can therefore be held to ransom by its 10 MPs.

"What you have at the moment is a British Government that is dependent on one party in Northern Ireland for its survival," the Taoiseach said. "The Good Friday Agreement is very clear. It says the sovereign Government has to act with total impartiality, but it is difficult for them to do so at the moment given that their Government is dependant on one party in the North."

Last December the DUP used its power over Mrs May to scupper a deal she made with Brussels aimed at protecting the Irish border.

"That's not a healthy place to be in but it's the realpolitick," said Mr Varadkar, who explained that reinstating Stormont would only be really possible through combined action by the Irish and British Governments.

"Things only ever really move forward in Northern Ireland when the British and Irish Governments work together."

Meanwhile, DUP MP Ian Paisley came under fire on social media after a tweet in which he referred to Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald as "Loopy Lou". Mr Paisley wrote: "Loopy Lou's Party walked out of Stormont" in response to a thread about Mrs McDonald's meeting with Mrs May on Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph