Varadkar wants best border deal for Ireland – even if it takes longer to secure
The Taoiseach broadly welcomed the Brexit statement from the UK government.
Leo Varadkar has welcomed the Brexit statement made by the UK government at Chequers.
The Taoiseach said he would give a more detailed response following the publication of the UK’s Brexit white paper on Thursday, but added he had had a good conversation over the telephone with Theresa May on Saturday.
Speaking during Leader’s Questions in the Dail, Mr Varadkar also emphasised he wants the best agreement for Ireland on the future of the border, not the quickest.
He was pressed by Irish Labour leader Brendan Howlin for clarity in relation to the backstop position.
Mr Howlin welcomed the UK’s proposed backstop, that it would match EU trade tariffs temporarily in order to avoid a hard Irish border post-Brexit.
But he expressed concern about the current chaos within the Conservative Party which saw the resignation of Cabinet ministers including Boris Johnson and the ramifications of a snap general election in the UK.
Mr Howlin put it to Mr Varadkar that the UK government made his government “look positively stable”.
“I genuinely believe that a deadline for us for a settlement on the backstop issue of September is infinitely more to our advantage than leaving it in a general pot of issues to be determined in October,” he said.
Mr Varadkar responded by saying he would rather take longer to secure the best outcome for Ireland.
I want to get the best agreement, and if that takes a little bit longer to get the best agreement for Ireland, well then so be it. Leo Varadkar
“Of course I want to have an agreement as soon as possible but I am not going to make concessions in order to get an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
“I want to get the best agreement, and if that takes a little bit longer to get the best agreement for Ireland, well then so be it.”
The Taoiseach added that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, and therefore even if an earlier agreement on the border was reached, he does not expect it would be signed off until the deadline for the withdrawal agreement in October at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels.
Mr Varadkar also urged the Dail for political stability in Ireland.
“We see across the water in the UK the real effects of political instability, a minority government, a confidence and supply agreement with another party, the risk of an early election – none of which is good for the UK and none of which strengthens the position of the UK as we enter into this difficult period,” he said.
“And the same applies here in Ireland. We need political stability here in Ireland.
“We don’t want to be going into that crucial period of September, October, November, without political stability, and that is why it is very much in the national interest that we have political stability in the autumn and we don’t risk finding ourselves in the situation that the UK now finds itself in.”
Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald also pressed Mr Varadkar for clarity on the backstop.
“The British would say we need a backstop, in other words they disavow what was agreed in December in effect by rejecting the protocol from March,” she said.
“Are you saying to us, Taoiseach, that that protocol is still open for negotiation as far as you are concerned?”
Mr Varadkar replied that he is more concerned about the outcome than legal texts.
“I am not hung up on legal texts, it’s about the outcome, it’s about what it achieves, and what the backstop, a backstop or any backstop must achieve,” he said.
“It’s not about the legal text, it’s about what happens on the ground, whether it allows us to achieve our objective, which is a legally binding guarantee that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.”