Belfast Telegraph

Pence encourages EU and Ireland to respect UK sovereignty with new Brexit deal

The US vice president Mike Pence met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin where they discussed Brexit.

US vice president Mike Pence (Liam McBurney/PA)
US vice president Mike Pence (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Cate McCurry, Michael McHugh and David Young, PA

Mike Pence has urged Ireland and the EU to negotiate a Brexit deal that respects the UK’s sovereignty.

During a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin, the US vice president said America supported the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

He encouraged Mr Varadkar to negotiate with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in “good faith” to reach an agreement that minimised disruption to commerce.

Ireland’s premier told Mr Pence that the EU had to stand its ground on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Pence held talks with Mr Varadkar at Farmleigh House in Dublin on what was the second day of his visit to Ireland.

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US vice president Mike Pence and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Charles McQuillan/PA)

Earlier, Brexit was also on the agenda during his meeting with Irish president Michael D Higgins.

After his talks with the Taoiseach, Mr Pence, who will meet Mr Johnson later in the week, said: “The United Stated supports the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in Brexit.

“But we also recognise the unique challenges on your northern border and I can assure you we will continue to encourage the UK and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit deal respects the Good Friday Agreement.

“As the deadline for Brexit approaches we urge Ireland, and the EU as well, to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the UK’s sovereignty and minimises disruption to commerce.

“The US will look to whatever helpful role we can play in helping to achieve that objective.”

Mr Varadkar asked Mr Pence to relay Ireland’s concerns about Brexit to politicians in Washington.

“The UK’s decision to travel a different course to ours risks being deeply disruptive, especially for the people of Northern Ireland, where most people voted to stay in Europe,” he said.

“Divergence between the UK and the EU means that the return of a hard border on this island is a very real risk.

“I know that you understand the impact a hard border will have on us on this island – barriers to the free movement of people and frictionless trade, barriers to North/South co-operation and the risk that the Good Friday Agreement and peace will be undermined.

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The pair discussed Brexit (Liam McBurney/PA)

“That is why we must stand our ground on the Withdrawal Agreement. An agreement which was carefully negotiated to overcome all these risks.

“So, Mr vice president, I ask that you bring that message back to Washington with you.

“This is not a problem of our making. It is one we want to solve – through an orderly Brexit and a Withdrawal Agreement that guarantees no re-emergence of a hard border on this island.”

Mr Pence referenced US President Donald Trump’s desire to strike a new trade deal with the UK as he expressed hopes for a new US/EU trade agreement.

“Mr President Trump announced last week that when Brexit is complete the United States will have a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom,” he said.

“So too we hope to have your continued support as we negotiate a new trade deal with the European Union.

“The United States is anxious to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU that will lower trade barriers and allow our trans-Atlantic economies to prosper more than ever before.

“In the months ahead, Taoiseach, I promise you that we will continue to look for ways to renew our ties that bind our two countries.

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Mr Pence is a conservative who opposed gay marriage during his time in Congress and Mr Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay Taoiseach (Aidan Crawley/PA)

“Increased cultural and educational exchanges will ensure the bonds of Irish and American friendship far into the future.

“Beyond our economic and security ties, the American people share something else with the Irish people – its history, its shared character and its common values.”

Earlier, Mr Pence and his wife Karen were greeted by Mr Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett at the front door to Farmleigh, the Irish state guest house in Phoenix Park.

The vice-president signed a visitor book in the Farmleigh entrance hall before attending a lunch with the Irish leader, Mr Barrett and Mr Varadkar’s parents, Ashok and Miriam.

Mr Pence is a conservative who opposed gay marriage during his time in Congress.

Mr Varadkar made history when he became the first openly gay Irish head of state in 2017.

Earlier, the vice president was accompanied by his wife, his mother Nancy Pence-Fritsch and sister Ann Poynter as they were greeted by President Higgins and his wife Sabina at their official residence, Aras an Uachtarain, also in Phoenix Park.

The Pence family had travelled to Dublin from Shannon Airport on Air Force Two after spending their first night on their Irish visit in Doonbeg, Co Clare – a place the vice president has family links to.

Mr Higgins and his wife escorted Mr and Mrs Pence to the state dining room of the Aras on Tuesday morning.

The vice president signed the guest book, writing: “In the memory of a great Irishman, Richard Michael Cawley (Mr Pence’s maternal grandfather) and on behalf of the United States of America – we are delighted to be back in Ireland.”

Mr Higgins’ office said the two men discussed Brexit and a range of other issues.

“President Higgins acknowledged long-standing US support for the peace process in Northern Ireland and highlighted the importance of human rights and equality legislation in resolving the conflict and promoting social change on the island of Ireland,” said a spokesman for Mr Higgins.

“The president spoke of the two nations’ shared concerns about the challenges posed by Brexit and stressed the important role of multilateral co-operation in addressing complex global issues such as conflict, poverty, food insecurity and climate change.”

The spokesman said Mr Higgins also emphasised the importance of responding “adequately and compassionately” to the needs of migrants and refugees.

PA

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