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Saturday 21 July 2018

'UK can't cherry-pick when dealing with EU' - Leo tells Brexit event

INM CEO Michael Doorly, chairman Leslie Buckley, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dermot Desmond at the INM breakfast
INM CEO Michael Doorly, chairman Leslie Buckley, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dermot Desmond at the INM breakfast

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that the UK can have as close a relationship with the EU as it wants, but it cannot "cherry-pick".

The Taoiseach said the UK cannot simply continue to take the benefits of the EU after Brexit as he spoke at an INM- organised Brexit breakfast at Trinity College.

"As Chancellor Angela Merkel said, the UK can have as close a relationship with Europe as it wants to have. What it can't do is cherry-pick. The EU is a set-menu restaurant, not an a-la-carte," said Mr Varadkar.

"If you're a member of the club, you're a member of the club. If you want to be an associate member, you can't write the rules yourself.

"That is a circle that still needs to be squared.

"Within two weeks you'll see the draft of the withdrawal agreement. That will be very interesting and will certainly crystalise things."

Mr Varadkar added that Ireland also needs to build new alliances in Europe ahead of the UK's departure.

"They were also a very strong ally on a lot of other questions. We are losing a friend in that regard, also a friend in terms of tax sovereignty and countries being able to set their own tax rules," he said.

The Taoiseach told guests at the breakfast that low property rates here help balance the high burden of income tax faced by workers.

While promising that the Government will "dramatically" reduce the income tax burden in the coming years, he said companies should stop complaining that taxes are too high.

Mr Varadkar said people can buy "very nice houses" without paying huge property tax.

"It is absolutely the case that marginal tax rates in Ireland are out of kilter with all of our competitors. You hit the high rate at very modest incomes," he said.

"That is counter-balanced by other things, though. People in Ireland, who largely can afford to buy very nice houses, don't pay the kind of property taxes that people pay in London or America."

Reliant

Separately, the Taoiseach questioned Theresa May's impartiality on the process of getting the North's administration back up and running.

Mr Varadkar pointed to the fact that the British government is reliant on the DUP to keep it in power, and can therefore be held to ransom by its 10 MPs.

"What you have at the mom-ent is a British government that is dependent on one party in Northern Ireland for its survival," he said.

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