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Thursday 14 November 2019

'It didn't have to be this bad but whoever prime minister is, we will work with them', says Leo

Leo Varadkar has examined the Brexit plans of Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn
Leo Varadkar has examined the Brexit plans of Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he will work with Britain on Brexit, regardless of who is the country's prime minister.

Mr Varadkar was speaking on RTE's Week In Politics yesterday when he was pressed on rumours that Theresa May's position has become untenable within her cabinet, and that ministers are allegedly plotting to oust the embattled Conservative leader.

The Taoiseach said he believed Mrs May could deliver Brexit, but added that his Cabinet has ensured the British-Irish working relationship was not dependent on Mrs May alone.

Consumed

"I think she can continue, but one thing I know, is that I should not interfere in internal politics in the UK," he said.

"Whoever the prime minister is, we will work with that prime minister, we've made sure over the last two years we have very good links not just at prime minister-level and taoiseach-level, but also between [UK chancellor] Philip Hammond and Paschal Donohoe and so on.

"Whoever is prime minister we will work with them.

"It didn't have to be this bad, I think what's happened is the UK is now consumed with Brexit.

"Even after they leave, assuming they leave with a Withdrawal Agreement, they will spend two or three years consumed about what the future relationship is going to be like.

"We have to make sure we're not consumed and defined by it, and my job as Taoiseach is to make sure we limit any damage so we can get on with our ambitious plan for the future."

The Taoiseach also responded to reports that German leader Angela Merkel had pushed for a task force to deal with the border issue, which had put Ireland under pressure.

"I'm not under any pressure from Chancellor Merkel or anyone else on this issue," he said.

"What Chancellor Merkel or President Macron would do is ask reasonable questions. I'm not sure what people think happens at European Council meetings.

"We don't go to have dinner, we have robust engagements, hard questions are asked and answered and we come to a consensus position and stand by that position."

Mr Varadkar also took aim at Mrs May's political opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"Our Plan A is getting the Withdrawal Agreement ratified and that is still possible," he said.

"Plan B could involve UK changing position in the next couple of weeks - on the customs union, for example.

"Corbyn's customs union is cake-and-eat-it as well. It's a customs union but still with the ability to have state aids and so on."

Mr Varadkar was also asked about Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth after the idea was floated by a DUP MP at the Fine Gael party conference.

"It's not something that's on the agenda," he said.

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