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Sunday 17 December 2017

Varadkar talks tragedy, Brexit and Love Actually on Downing St visit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

With Britain still grieving following terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire, new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chose to open a briefing in London with remarks about Christmas movie Love Actually.

The Taoiseach could not contain his enthusiasm on his first official overseas trip in the role and spoke of his "thrill" at being in Downing Street.

"Prime minister. Thank you very much for hosting us today here in 10 Downing Street," Mr Varadkar told British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday.

"It's my first time in this building so it's a little thrill."

He said on the way to the building he was "reminded of that famous scene in Love Actually where Hugh Grant was dancing down the stairs".

"But apparently it wasn't actually filmed here," he added.

Bizarre

Despite opening his post-meeting remarks with a bizarre reference to the rom-com, Mr Varadkar soon had to address more serious matters - the various tragedies that have struck Britain in recent weeks.

Mr Varadkar referenced the fact it was his first overseas trip as Taoiseach and thanked the prime minister for arranging to meet at such short notice.

"It does, I think, underline and emphasise the strength and the closeness of the relationship that exists between our two countries," he said.

Mr Varadkar then spoke of the tragedies that have befallen Britain in recent weeks, including the London Bridge terror attack, the Grenfell Tower fire and Sunday night's horror outside Finsbury Park Mosque.

"At the meeting I spoke again and offer condolences on behalf of the Irish people and the Irish Government to the British people and the British government on the enormous tragedies that this country and this city has faced," he said.

"We passed the Grenfell Tower on the way today and saw the destruction that occurred there and even this morning, as you know, there's been another atrocity up in Finsbury Park, on top of what's happened at London Bridge.

"London is a very important city for Irish people," he added.

"I think pretty much everybody in Ireland has somebody who lives here, a relative or a close friend, and when there is an attack on London we feel in Ireland that it's almost an attack on us as well.

"I just want you to know that you have our support and our solidarity and, if there's anything that we can do to assist, we're ready and willing to do so."

Mr Varadkar also offered his thoughts on Brexit.

"It's a matter of regret to us that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, the single market and the customs union," he said.

"We would prefer it was not so but this is a sovereign decision for the people of the United Kingdom.

"What we want to do is to try to bring about an outcome for a new set of relationships between the United Kingdom and the European Union that allows trade to continue as it has done in the past.

"Of course I can't give you the detail of how that is all going to work out now because the negotiations have only just begun, but we have a shared objective to minimise the disruption to trade both north and south and east and west."

Deadline

Both leaders expressed their hope that the parties in Northern Ireland will re-establish the power-sharing executive by the June 29 deadline.

Mrs May meanwhile, said her Conservative Party is continuing its talks with the DUP in relation to agreeing to a confidence and supply arrangement in Westminster.

She said that, regardless of this process, the UK government "remains absolutely steadfast in our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and to the successor agreements".

She said the details of any Westminster government deal with the DUP will be published when it is reached.

Mr Varadkar confirmed he raised the issue at the meeting.

"I was very assured by what the prime minister had to say that the agreement, once it's reached, will be published so it will be there for everyone to see," he said.

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