'British people want to stay in EU', says Irish premier Leo Varadkar
3 October 2019, 18:41
The Irish Taioseach took on Boris Johnson today saying that all polls since he became PM suggest the British people wish to reverse the Brexit decision.
Downing Street responded to the claims by saying the UK voted to leave the EU and it is "vital" the government delivers that result.
Mr Johnson's spokeswoman said: "We are all used to being asked questions about Brexit when we travel and it is no different for him [Mr Varadkar].
"But the Prime Minister laid out in a statement earlier today that it is vital we deliver on the referendum result and that is what we are going to do."
The Irish premier was speaking on a visit to Sweden and suggested there were five ways to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland: the reunification of Ireland; the Irish Republic re-joining the UK; the UK remaining in the single market and customs union; the border backstop mechanism; or the UK reversing the Brexit decision.
Overturning the result of the referendum was what the British public wanted, he argued.
"All the polls since Prime Minister Johnson became prime minister suggest that's what the British people actually want, but their political system isn't able to give them that choice," he said.
Mr Varadkar was critical of Mr Johnson's plan for the Irish border, saying "it falls short in a number of aspects" and adding different customs regimes on the island would inevitably require customs posts.
He said: "Our objective is very clear - we don't want to see any customs posts between north and south nor do we want to see any tariffs or restrictions on trade between north and south.
"They were all abolished in the 1990s and we don't want to go back to that. The majority of the people in the north don't and the majority of the people in the Republic of Ireland don't.
"But if we are going to be in two different customs unions I think that's going to create a real difficulty that's going to be very hard to reconcile."
The Irish leader urged all sides to be "practical" about the proposed Stormont veto on new regulatory arrangements as the Irish Parliament "has not sat for three years" and no one party should be able to block the majority view on the island.
Under UK government plans, the Northern Ireland Assembly would, every four years, have the chance to vote on whether they consent to remaining in alignment with the EU's Single Market rules on food safety, animal and plant health, and rules related to manufactured goods.
"Any consent mechanism and democracy mechanism must reflect the views of the majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland," said the Taoiseach.
"We need to be practical about any arrangements when it comes to consent or democracy clauses. Stormont has not sat for three years - that is the reality of it, so if we wrote into an international treaty provisions that required certain actions by Stormont, what would happen if Stormont wasn't operating?
"You would need a fall-back position there as well. So I think that's the kind of thing that we need to explore with our British friends."
However he praised the UK Prime Minister for proposing a new economic investment package for Northern Ireland, saying it was a positive development.