Taoiseach says Brexit talks can only move forward if progress is made before October

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Brexit talks can only move forward if sufficient progress is made before October, writes Daniel McConnell.

Speaking in Canada following a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr Varadkar questioned why the UK would want to depart from the customs union and the single market, when they are perfectly good trade deals with the EU.

He was speaking after British Brexit Minister David Davis has said early discussions of the future trading relationship between Britain and the EU would help progress on the Irish Border, a key issue in phase one of withdrawal talks.

“It is simply not possible to reach a near final agreement on the Border issue until we’ve begun to talk about how our broader future customs arrangement will work,” he said in an article for the Sunday Times.

But responding to those comments, Mr Varadkar said: “That (decision) will be made by the EU council when we meet in October and we will see how far we have gotten on those issues and only if sufficient progress has been made on all three issues will we decide to continue to further talks but that is something that will be decided by all 27 leaders in Octobers,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the suggestion that David Davis has made is common sense. “If we are able to have a trade agreement between the EU and the UK it will be much easier to sort out issues around any border,” he said.

“Where I depart from him a little bit on is the fact we already have a trade agreement, which is the customs union and the single market, so it seems we already have two very good trade agreements in place between the EU and the UK and I am not sure what they have in mind as a better one,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.

The Taoiseach said the papers published by the British are very helpful, they give us some further clarity as to the position of the British government it.

“It is very positive in the area of the Common Travel Area, because it is much more than that. It is really a common area of citizenship allowing British and Irish people to live, work, study, reside access housing, health and welfare in each others country,” he said.

“That Britain committed to retaining that area is something we welcome. We welcome their commitment to the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and to continue peace funding,” Mr Varadkar added.

He said where it is going to be difficult is in and around the new trading relationship between the UK and the EU because that will determine the relationship between Ireland and the UK.

A paper outlining the British position on Northern Ireland published on Wednesday says it will seek a series of waivers for goods and people crossing the Border.

This paper said the British government wants to avoid Border posts with the Republic when the UK leaves the EU and to preserve the Good Friday peace agreement.

Mr Davis said “if we get the comprehensive free trade agreement we’re seeking as part of our future partnership, solutions in Northern Ireland are easier to deliver.”

Next week Mr Davis will publish five position papers further explaining Britain’s Brexit negotiating strategy in an attempt to accelerate the talks.

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