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New Irish PM Looking For Brexit Solutions

by Jason Gorringe,, London

07 August 2017

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has suggested that there could be an EU-UK customs union after Brexit.

In a speech at Queen's University, Belfast, Varadkar stressed that he does "not want there to be an economic border on our island," and that he does not "want one between Ireland and Britain." He said that an economic border was "a barrier to free trade and commerce."

According to Varadkar, advocates of "hard Brexit" should be the ones to draw up proposals for such a border. He said that such advocates have had 14 months to convince others that it is in their interest to have "these barriers to commerce and trade."

Varadkar said that if they are unable to do so, "we can then talk meaningfully about solutions that might work for all of us."

Varadkar suggested that, if, as the UK has intimated, the country does not want to stay in the customs union, there could be an EU-UK customs union. He said: "After all, we have one with Turkey. Surely we can have one with the United Kingdom?"

In addition, if the UK does not intend to stay in the single market, Varadkar said it "could enter into a deep free trade agreement with the EU and re-join [the] EFTA of which it was a member prior to accession."

"And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out."

Varadkar described Brexit as "the challenge in our generation." He noted that "Every single aspect of life in Northern Ireland could be affected by the outcome [of the negotiations] – jobs and the economy, the border, citizens' rights, cross-border workers, travel, trade, agriculture, energy, fisheries, aviation, EU funding, tourism, public services, the list goes on."

Varadkar explained that in October, the leaders of the EU's 27 remaining member states will meet to decide whether sufficient progress has been made on the three key issues the Commission wants settled before deciding whether to move on to the next phase in the Brexit talks. These are: citizens' rights, the financial settlement, and issues relating to Ireland.

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | value added tax (VAT) | Ireland | export duty | energy | commerce | aviation | tariffs | trade treaty | United Kingdom | agreements | import duty | trade | European Union (EU) | Turkey | services | Europe

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