Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar tells May 'the ball is in your court' on Brexit border issue

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Theresa May 'the ball is in your court' in terms of resolving the Brexit border issue.

Mr Varadkar also warned the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that agreement over a border deal will be between the UK government and the European Union - not one political party.

Speaking during leaders questions in the Dail on Tuesday, the Irish premier reiterated his "regret" that the UK Government had backed down from a proposal that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should continue to be aligned after Brexit.

The proposed agreement was put on hold after the DUP contacted Theresa May in Brussels when details of the proposal came to light.

Without referring specifically to the DUP, Mr Varadkar said: "There are many political parties in Northern Ireland and we will listen to and respect all political parties in Northern Ireland and recognise that the majority did not vote to leave the European Union."

He added: "This is very important, the negotiations are taking place between a sovereign government, the UK in one hand and the European Union of which we are part.

"The negotiations are not involving one or any political party. This agreement, if we come to it, will not be involving one political party to the exclusion of others."

The Taoiseach said that had the Stormont powersharing Executive not collapsed in January, Northern Ireland would have had a united, cross-community voice in terms of Brexit.

He added that people mistakenly think only one party speaks for the region.

Mr Varadkar admitted that relations between Ireland and the UK "have been strained in the last year or two" because of Brexit.

He added however that he believes Prime Minister Theresa May and her team are "negotiating in good faith".

"I look forward to hearing from them as to how they think we can proceed. The ball is now in London's court," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday deputy premier and Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney insisted that the Government would not change its position on the Brexit border deal that was in place on Monday.

Mr Coveney said the Government will work with the British Government on presentational issues around the text which had been agreed on the border, but the core meaning must remain.

He added that while the DUP should be listened to, one political party could not decide what is acceptable and what is not for the British and Irish governments and for the EU negotiators.

The next European Council summit is on December 14 and Mr Varadkar said he believes there is time to put the agreement back on track.

He said the agreement on Monday had three possible options - An EU-UK free trade agreement that would allow free trade to continue between Britain and Ireland; a bespoke arrangement involving technology; or, if all else fails, an ongoing regulatory alignment between the north and south.

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