Ireland can act as a bridge to prevent US-EU trade war, says Varadkar

Ireland can act as a bridge between the US and EU to prevent a trade war the Taoiseach has said, writes Elaine Loughlin.

Speaking after he arrived in Washington as part of his St Patrick's day trip to the US Mr Varadkar warned that there is a danger America and Europe may "drift apart" due to growing divisions.

Mr Varadkar is due to meet President Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday where he is expected to bring up the threat of a trade war between the EU and US.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC on day three of his week-long visit to the United States. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Speaking at the Brookings Institute Mr Varadkar said: "For years, this relationship helped provide a bridge between the EU and the United States. I fear that there is a danger that the EU and the United States may drift apart due to growing divisions on trade, tax, climate change and many other areas.

"Such a development would not be in the interests of the people on either side of the Atlantic. Ireland can and is willing to act as a bridge between the US and the EU to interpret one to the other and to help ensure that positive and constructive relations are maintained and developed," he said

Mr Varadkar also said the lack of an Assembly in Northern Ireland has been "corrosive and damaging".

He told the event: "Continuing differences between the political parties representing the two communities in Northern Ireland mean that there has been no power-sharing Executive in Belfast for some time.

"Its absence is corrosive and damaging. It means that there is no effective political engagement on issues of relevance to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland, economically and socially," said Mr Varadkar.

The Taoiseach pointed out that the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union in the Brexit referendum and even now the majority want to stay in the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market.

"Brexit is a real threat to the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Varadkar warned.

He also told the audience that among the many challenges that we face are Brexit, increased regional instability fuelled by geopolitical tensions and conflicts; changing approaches to international trade; cyberterrorism; and uncontrolled mass migration.

By Elaine Loughlin
Political Correspondent

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