Europe

Irish PM 'understands unionist concerns over Brexit'

Leo Varadkar Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Leo Varadkar said his government did not want to undermine the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

Ireland's prime minister has said he understands the sensitivities surrounding Brexit and the border issue for unionists in Northern Ireland.

Leo Varadkar made the comments during an interview with Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

He said the Irish government did not want to undermine the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

It comes after Mr Varadkar met with the president of the European Council Donald Tusk on Friday.

The taoiseach (Irish prime minister) told RTÉ that Brexit had caused some difficulty in relations between Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

"Irish-British relations were at their closest ever, and then came Brexit," he said.

"Brexit is not our policy, Brexit is their policy. It is a disruption and it is causing problems for us".

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Donald Tusk met with Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Friday

He added that his government are "not looking to change the constitutional status of Northern Ireland".

"We want the Good Friday Agreement to work," he said.

"We're totally committed to that as a government. We're not looking to replace it with something new.

"What we want is just practical common sense. We want people to be able to cross the border, just like they do now."

Last week, the DUP's Sammy Wilson said any attempt to "placate Dublin and the EU" could mean a withdrawal of DUP support at Westminster.

He was responding to reports of a possible strategy to deal with the Irish border after Brexit.

The story suggested that British and EU officials could be about to seek separate customs measures for Northern Ireland after the UK leaves the European Union.

The DUP struck a deal with Prime Minister Theresa May's government in June, agreeing to support Tory policies at Westminster, in return for an extra £1bn in government spending for Northern Ireland.

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