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Leo Varadkar issues stark warning over Brexit at EU summit

By Sheetal Sukhija, Dublin News
20 Oct 2018, 03:29 GMT+10

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Addressing an EU summit in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued a serious warning related to Brexit. 

At the key summit, Varadkar pointed out that Brexit will "permanently change the relationship" between Ireland and the U.K. and the U.K. and Europe."

He further pointed out that if a hard border remerges, there would be a "real risk" of a return to violence in Ireland.

Describing Brexit as "the political equivalent of climate change," Varadkar told EU leaders that no-one in Ireland or in the Irish Government was in any way "exaggerating the real risk" of violence.

The Taoiseach also told reporters, "I thought it was a useful prop to demonstrate to all of the European leaders the extent to which the re-emergence of a hard border and a return to violence are very real. This was the front page of an Irish newspaper published yesterday, interviewing family members, the daughter of somebody who was killed at a customs post on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland back in the 1970s."

He said, "That is what used to happen when we had customs posts in Ireland. I wanted to make sure there was no sense in the room that, in any way, anybody in Ireland was in any way exaggerating the real risk of a return to violence in Ireland."

He also pointed out that Brexit was not a passing squall, and said, "It's the political equivalent of climate change, it's a permanent change, not in the weather, but the climate when it comes to relations between Ireland and the U.K., and the U.K. and the EU."

Varadkar reportedly added that EU and U.K. negotiators are "working away behind the scenes."

He noted that while they had made some progress, however, "there was not enough progress."

He added that "leaders had called on the Task Force to intensify work in the weeks ahead."

Explaining further, he said, "There were still big gaps both in terms of shape of future trade relationship, but also on the backstop."

The Taoiseach also added that leaders of the EU27 had agreed to maintain their support for Michel Barnier and the Article 50 Task Force and to maintain unity. 

Varadkar also pointed out that the EU had reservations about the idea of a U.K.-wide customs backstop.

He said, "We couldn't have a situation whereby the UK had access to the single market and at the same time was able to undercut us in standards, whether it was environmental standards, health, state aid, and competition standards."

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