Irish leader Leo Varadkar has said the draft Brexit agreement could present economic benefits for Northern Irish business.
Speaking at a special press conference on Wednesday night, Mr Varadkar said that if the trading arrangements envisaged in the draft agreement were embraced, they could “represent a genuine economic opportunity for Northern Ireland businesses, with unfettered access to both Great Britain and EU markets”.
He added that the trading arrangements proposed in the draft text during the transition period are very welcome for all Irish businesses trading with the UK, with the UK land bridge facilitating the route from Ireland to mainland Europe.
Earlier on Wednesday, during Leader’s Questions, Mr Varadkar moved to reassure Northern Ireland’s unionist community, noting it was a “difficult time” and saying he was dedicated to restoring a powersharing executive in Stormont.
He added on Wednesday night that the Irish government was no threat to their identity and was keen to solidify relations.
“We both want to build ever deeper bilateral relations and to help secure the restoration of powersharing institutions in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I want to repeat my message of earlier today to unionists – our approach is not intended in any way as a threat to you, or to your identity.
“Our goal is simply to protect the peace and the Good Friday Agreement from any unintended or undesirable consequence.
“The draft withdrawal agreement states in black and white that Ireland and the EU fully respect the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, and that this can only change if the majority of people in Northern Ireland want it.”
Mr Varadkar acknowledged that he had not spoken to DUP leader Arlene Foster on Wednesday, but said he was aware of her earlier statements in Westminster in which she labelled the Irish government “aggressive”.
“There are sensitivities there and I certainly heard what Arlene had to say today,” he said.
“The DUP is the DUP, it’s a unionist party, it’s not going to be told what to do by the Irish government, but the door is always open and the phone is always on.
“I am always willing to speak to her or anyone in the DUP to offer any clarifications or any assurances that they may wish to have.”
Mr Varadkar is to meet with Northern Ireland parties Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Northern Ireland Green Party on Thursday.