Leo Varadkar: It's only half-time for Brexit with negotiations next step
16 January 2020, 10:52 | Updated: 16 January 2020, 10:53
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is only "half time" for Brexit and the next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the UK and EU.
The Irish prime minister said there must be a common minimum standard so the UK could not "undercut" the EU.
He said the next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the UK and EU.
Mr Varadkar spoke as the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen visited Ireland for the first time in her current role.
Welcoming President von der Leyen, Mr Varadkar said he wanted to restate Ireland's appreciation for the European Union's solidarity on Brexit.
"I always felt removing uncertainty was one of the crucial ingredients in the negotiations," Mr Varadkar said.
"The next step is negotiating a free trade agreement between the EU and the UK.
"There also has to be a level playing field so the customs union is not diluted.
"Ireland is team EU."
Mr Varadkar told the media what he and the European Commission President planned to discuss a number of issues.
"We will speak about the European Green deal and I am excited to discuss that," Mr Varadkar added.
"We support the objective of the European Union becoming carbon neutral."
Speaking in Government Buildings in Dublin Ms Von der Leyden said: "It is such an honour to be here.
"The UK will leave the EU in two weeks. No other country in the EU will be affected more than Ireland.
"Ireland and Northern Ireland were our top priority during the negotiations.
"The negotiations were successful. The EU negotiated respectfully and fairly as we wanted an orderly exit. It's very important to protect citizens' rights.
"It's good we have the reassurance that people can live and work in the UK.
"This was very important and one of the top priorities to ensure peace and stability."
She thanked Mr Varadkar for his work in the Brexit process adding that the EU will watch over the implementation of Brexit "very closely".
Ms Von der Leyen added: "We have a wide-ranging (Brexit) agenda.
"We will have around eight months as the talks will start at the end of February.
"It's not only trade, there are a lot of other topics, including security.
"We have a plan but we have to work very hard."
The UK is set to leave the EU on January 31 2019.