Europe

Irish government will not design 'Brexiteer border', says Varadkar

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLeo Varadkar will not design 'border for Brexiteers'

The Irish government will not design a border for Brexiteers, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has said.

He said his government did not want to see any kind of economic border on the island of Ireland when the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Varadkar said he hoped unionists in Northern Ireland would not respond angrily to his position.

He is due to visit Northern Ireland next week.

"It is the British and the Brexiteers who are leaving, so if anyone should be angry it's us quite frankly," he added.

"But we are not going to get angry.

"We are going to try and find solutions or at least minimise the damage to relations between Britain and Ireland, to the peace process and to trading links."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Finding a solution to the Irish border issue is one of the main challenges of Brexit

Earlier, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney denied a newspaper report that suggested the Irish government preferred a sea border.

'Madness'

The Times report suggested Mr Varadkar wanted customs and immigration checks at ports, rather than any checks along the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Sources told the paper that Mr Varadkar believes a land border would jeopardise the peace process.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFergal Keane speaks to people on both sides of the border about Brexit

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) described the suggestion as "madness".

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "That's just not going to happen.

"There is no way that the DUP would go for an option that put a border between one part of the UK and another.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFollow the road that cuts across the Irish border four times inside six miles

"That would be a bit like saying we're going to create a border between California and the rest of the USA.

"I think what Dublin needs to think about is innovative ways in which it can move its market closer to the UK."

Sir Jeffrey claimed that 64% of goods exported by the Republic of Ireland go to the UK.

But that figure is incorrect - exports to the UK amounted to 12.8% of trade in 2016, according to the Irish government.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSir Jeffrey Donaldson tells Today idea of a sea border between Ireland and UK is "absurd"

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said Mr Varadkar's comments were "totally irresponsible".

"If the taoiseach thinks he is going to use the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to make a name for himself he should think again," he added.

'Imaginative'

However, Mr Coveney told Irish national broadcaster RTÉ: "There is no proposal that is suggesting that there be a border in the Irish Sea."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Unionists have said that any movement of the border between the UK and Ireland will not happen

The Irish foreign minister said the onus was on the UK to "come up with imaginative and if necessary unique solutions" to avoiding a so-called hard border.

The Irish border is one of the key issues that needs to be resolved by the UK and the EU before talks begin on a new trade deal.

Mr Coveney said a political solution was required, rather than a technical fix, which has been suggested by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Mr Davis has proposed using measures like surveillance cameras to allow free movement between the north and south of the island.

Mr Coveney insisted his government colleagues will not support proposals that result in checkpoints along the Irish border.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The onus is on the UK to come up with a solution for the Irish border, said Simon Coveney

Addressing reporters on Friday afternoon, the taoiseach said both he and Mr Coveney were on the same page on the issue.

But Mr Varadkar added that if the UK government wants technological solutions to the border that was up to them.

He said the Irish government would not do that work for them.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams supported Mr Varadkar's remarks and said he should support a campaign for Northern Ireland to be granted special status within the EU.

"The taoiseach should should tell both the British government and the EU negotiating team that this is the best solution to the economic, political and social challenges that Ireland faces from Brexit," Mr Adams added.

In the 2016 referendum, the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU but in Northern Ireland, 56% of the electorate voted to remain.

Related Topics

More on this story