Brexit divorce talks have so far made insufficient progress to allow starting negotiations on a post-withdrawal trade deal, Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said after meeting British prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street. But Mr Varadkar stressed that there was still time for the situation to be resolved before the 27 remaining EU members make a decision on the matter in October.
He said: “I don’t think, at this stage, it would be possible to say that sufficient progress has yet been made, but it may well be possible by the end of October when we meet in Brussels ”. He added that the decision would be shaped by the views of chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
“Certainly, we will be very much guided by the report that Michel Barnier will make to the prime ministers and also the report that the European Parliament will make.”
Mr Varadkar also urged the British government to be “more specific” about the future relationship between the UK and Ireland after Brexit.
Following a working lunch in No 10, Mr Varadkar said the prime minister’s decision to rule out a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland was “very important”.
Mr Varadkar, who is the first EU leader to visit the prime minister since her keynote address in Florence last week in which she set out her hopes for a post-Brexit relationship with Brussels, also urged the DUP and Sinn Fein to find a solution to the deadlock over power-sharing.
“I have always encouraged the British government to be more specific about how they see the future relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the United Kingdom and the European Union”, he said.
A spokesperson for Theresa May said the The Prime Minister made clear how the UK will be the strongest friend and partner to the EU after we leave the EU and how maintaining the reciprocal arrangements for the Common Travel Area and the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Belfast Agreement were at heart of our approach.
On the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Prime Minister reaffirmed that we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border and how we are working on delivering a practical solution that allows for the most seamless possible movement of goods between the UK and EU.
The Prime Minister thanked the Taoiseach for his welcome of her Florence speech and they discussed the period of implementation which would enable people and businesses – both in the UK and in the EU – to adjust to the new arrangements in a smooth and orderly way.
They also spoke about the ongoing trade dispute between Boeing and Bombardier and their shared concern about the impact this could have on jobs and livelihoods in Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister recognized the Irish Government’s support on resolving this important issue.
Finally the Prime Minister said how she looked forward to continuing the special ties and close cooperation between the two countries and she also gave her strong support for Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid and the benefits this would bring to the sport and to Ireland and Northern Ireland.