Irish Premier Leo Varadkar says deal protects the wishes of Northern Ireland - and avoids a hard border

The Irish Premier says the Brexit deal reached protects the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and avoids a hard border.

Thursday, 17th October 2019, 3:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th October 2019, 4:24 pm
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar, speaking in Brussels minutes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with Jean-Claude Junker confirming a deal had been made, said that compromises had to be made to protect Ireland and the EU.

“As things stand we have a draft agreement between the EU on one hand and the British government on the other,” he said.

“It’s a good agreement allowing the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion with a transition period which is very important for businesses and citizens across the EU and UK,” he said.

“It also creates a unique solution for Northern Ireland recognising the unique history and geography of Northern Ireland, which ensures that there is no hard border between north and south, the all island economy can continue to develop and protects the single market and our place in it.

“I’ll be in a position to recommend to the European Council today that the agreement be endorsed by the European Council.”

When asked if the DUP could scupper the deal, after the party released a statement on Thursday saying they could not support the proposals, Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t want to comment on a position taken by any political party, but this will go to House of Commons on Saturday and we have to give them time and space to make the decision for themselves as to what is the right thing for the United Kingdom.”

On his concessions, which includes compromises on a timescale and consent, Mr Varadkar said he was comfortable with the concessions as it fulfilled Ireland’s objectives.

“I want there to be a deal, a deal that allows the UK to leave in an orderly fashion but ensure our objectives are achieved,” he said.

“I always said we would work to the last moment for a deal, I think it’s a good agreement for Northern Ireland, and for Ireland and the wider European Union.

“A compromise never has one father, we were all involved in making compromises, Prime Minister Johnson, the Irish government and the European Union as well.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last few years to secure a deal, we regret that they’re leaving but we respect that, we know they want to leave with a deal, we want a deal too, particularly one that protects our interests and we have that now.

“The backstop has been replaced with a new solution, unique to Northern Ireland recognising its unique history and geography, and which protects the all island economy and access to the single market, and crucially takes account of democratic wishes of the people in Northern Ireland, we have always expressed the view that we would never seek to keep the people of Northern Ireland in an arrangement against the will of the people.”

Refusing to be drawn into speculation, Mr Varadkar gave little away on whether he felt Boris Johnson could get the vote passed in his own parliament.

“The House of Commons will meet on Saturday and the best thing we can do as Irish politicians is not intervene or interfere in UK politics, it’s up to them to decide whether they want a deal, they rejected the last deal on three occasions,” he said.

Negotiations between the EU and UK reconvened early on Thursday morning, before a deal was announced around midday, Mr Varadkar said that the last few hours did not include anything crucial, but ironing out of some issues.

“I don’t think anything crucial has been discussed in the last three hours, there was obviously a matter around VAT that had to be resolved, but what really happened was over the last week or so the Irish government came together with British government and EU taskforce trying to get around the issues that have been problematic, and we have now have a democracy clause which protects the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.”