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Border talks could resume in new year, says Varadkar

The Taoiseach said leaders needed to listen to other voices in Northern Ireland as well as Theresa May’s pro-Brexit partners the DUP.

Irish border talks could resume in the New Year if agreement is not sealed by next week, the Irish premier said.

Leo Varadkar acknowledged it was in the Republic’s own interest to see the EU-UK negotiations proceed to their second phase and address post-Brexit trade once the European Council meets on December 14/15.

The DUP MP Ian Paisley has suggested a no-deal Brexit could cost the Republic 3.8% of its GDP overnight.

Mr Varadkar said leaders needed to listen to other voices in Northern Ireland as well as Theresa May’s pro-Brexit partners the Democratic Unionists, as they attempted to iron out differences over the border and other issues.

Mr Varadkar told parliamentarians in the Irish Dail: “We want to move to phase two but if it is not possible to move to phase two next week because of the problems that have arisen, well then we can pick it up of course in the New Year.”

He stood by the text “agreed” between negotiators on Monday which was reportedly scuppered by a late intervention from the DUP, which said it could not accept the Government’s proposal that there should be continued “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Varadkar said he intended to speak to the Prime Minister in the coming days.

He added: “I think we should listen to all parties in Northern Ireland and not accept this idea that seems to be gaining prevalence in some parts of London and maybe other places as well that there is only one party in Northern Ireland and that party speaks for everyone.

“I don’t accept that premise, which seems to be accepted by too many people at the moment.”

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks in the Dail (Dail/PA)

The Taoiseach said it was the UK’s role to come back to the EU side with proposals.

“I understand that the Prime Minister has difficult issues that she is managing, there are different views within her own party on Brexit and she also has to manage a confidence and supply agreement that she has with the DUP.

“I absolutely accept that Theresa May wants to come to an agreement, that she is acting in good faith and I want to give her time … before we move things forward.”

He said it was the “desire, ambition and wish” of his Government to move on to post-Brexit trade talks.

“It is in our interest to move to phase two, that is where we talk about the transition period that we need, so individuals and businesses can prepare for any long-term change.

“It is where we can talk about the new trading arrangements which are so important for Irish importers and exporters, the agri-food industry and anyone whose job in Ireland depends on trade with Britain.”

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