Ireland’s former Taoiseach and current deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has urged the EU to cut red tape in order to solve the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland protocol. Mr Varadkar told a European Movement Ireland seminar: “In practice, despite our enormous differences, Ireland aligned itself with the United Kingdom on most of the everyday issues that the European Union dealt with. “As a free-trade, pro-enterprise and pro-competition champion, we tended to adopt similar positions and similar opt-outs to the UK. “The European Union without the United Kingdom is a weaker and poorer place.” But Mr Varadkar added how achieving progress requires “realism, generosity, practicality and reduced officiousness from Brussels”.
His words echo alarming claims made by Ireland’s foreign minister on Brexit day in January 2020.
He told Channel 4 that “the UK will be lesser” as a result of Brexit while the EU will be a “weaker union”.
In another interview on the same day, he added: “My overall feeling today is one of sadness.
“In terms of the bigger picture: I think everybody loses here.
“I think Britain will lose; I think their standing in the world has been damaged and will be diminished without the solidarity that comes with EU membership.
“I think the EU will be weakened too – because Britain is a great country, it’s a powerful country, it’s a strong economy and it added a lot to the European Union.
“Now our focus turns to the east-west relationship in terms of getting a trade deal – and a deal on a whole range of other things.
“There also will need to be deals on fisheries, on energy, on transport, on aviation, on law enforcement, on data protection.
“So anybody who thinks this is a question of just agreeing ‘we’re starting from the same position here, so let’s just keep trading with each other’ – that is just nonsense.”
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Discussions were described as “productive” and “constructive” with momentum now established to achieve a solution to the crisis, the Brexit Minister, Lord Frost said.
But the EU used the first face-to-face meeting to warn that the outcome needed to be jointly agreed upon.
European Commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic said there was “no space for unilateral action”, and added the threat of legal action over the UK’s decision last month to delay some of the border checks in Northern Ireland would remain on the table for “as long as necessary”.
As things stand, the legal action is still ongoing, and could end up in the courts should the Government continue to resist Brussels’ infringement proceedings.