TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he is “confused and puzzled” by the UK’s post-Brexit trading plans.
Speaking to Bloomberg TV, Varadkar said it was not realistic for Britain to expect the advantages of being in the European Union but none of the responsibilities and costs.
“What trade agreement does the United Kingdom want with the European Union? At the moment, they have the best trade deal imaginable,” he said.
“What are these better deals the UK really wants from Europe and other countries? Some more clarity would be helpful.”
Last week the UK published a series of policy papers setting out its Brexit plans, including its intention to leave the customs union while maintaining either no border or a ‘soft’ border in Northern Ireland.
However, in response, Guy Verhofstadt, one of the EU’s Brexit negotiators, described aspects of the UK’s plan as “fantasy”.
During the interview, Varadkar again stressed he doesn’t want a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
He’s currently in Canada and is today expected to visit a section of the US-Canadian border, which has been cited as a possible model for any future Irish border.
“I’m a little bit sceptical, but I’d like to see it with my own eyes,” Varadkar said.
More progress needed
Varadkar added that Ireland was “not satisfied” with the progress that had been made to date in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
He said the main sources of frustration stemmed from the lack of clarity on citizens’ rights post-Brexit, the UK’s outstanding bill after leaving the EU and trade borders on the island of Ireland.
When asked about US president Donald Trump, Varadkar said he hopes to meet him in Washington DC next March for the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
He said the importance of the two countries’ relationship is bigger than any one person.
“It’s fair to say that the policy and character of my government would be, or the government which I lead, would be very different to that of president Trump,” he said.
Written by Órla Ryan and Peter Bodkin.