Irish Premier Leo Varadkar demands 'level playing field' in Brexit talks

15 January 2020, 20:33

Mr Varadkar has called for a "level playing field" in Brexit negotiations
Mr Varadkar has called for a "level playing field" in Brexit negotiations. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Irish Premier Leo Varadkar has said there needs to be "a level playing field" in Brexit negotiations to stop the UK "undercutting" the EU.

Mr Varadkar called for a common minimum standard to ensure the single market and customs union were "not diluted."

The Taioseach made the demand to prevent Britain from attempting to "undercut" the EU over its labour and environmental standards.

He said Brexit talks had reached a halfway point, with the next step involving the negotiation of a free trade agreement between the two parties.

The Irish leader's comments come as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the country for the first time since taking on her new role.

Mr Varadkar also reiterated his appreciation for the bloc's solidarity over Brexit.

The Irish Premier was discussing Brexit with Ms Von der Leyen
The Irish Premier was discussing Brexit with Ms Von der Leyen. Picture: PA

He discussed the issue, along with the European Green Deal, with Ms Von der Leyen on Wednesday evening.

The Taioseach said: "I really want to restate Ireland's deep appreciation and thanks for the solidarity from the commission and the European institutions and other member states.

"Only as a result of that, we have a Withdrawal Agreement which assures us there is no hard border, that citizens' rights are protected and the travel area between Britain and Ireland remains in place."

He also cited the restoration of Stormont as an example of the bloc's ability to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

"I always felt removing uncertainty around Brexit was one of the crucial ingredients that is required to get the parties together again," Mr Varadkar continued.

The pair spoke in Dublin's Government Buildings
The pair spoke in Dublin's Government Buildings. Picture: PA

"The next step is negotiating a free trade agreement with the UK. When it comes to Brexit it is only half-time, and the next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

"There also has to be a level playing field so that the single market and the customs union are not diluted.

"We must have common minimum standards so that the UK doesn't attempt in any way to undercut the EU when it comes to labour and environmental standards."

Speaking in Dublin's Government Buildings, Ms Von der Leyen said the UK will leave the EU in two weeks.

"We have a wide-ranging (Brexit) agenda. We will have around eight months because the negotiation talks will start at the end of February or beginning of March.

"It's not only trade, there are a lot of other topics too, including security. We have a plan but we have to work very hard to reach our goal."

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