Irish PM suggests UK-EU customs union

Dhaka,  Mon,  21 August 2017
Published : 04 Aug 2017, 23:18:58
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Irish PM suggests UK-EU customs union

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has called for "unique solutions" to preserve the relationship between the UK and the European Union after Brexit.

On his first official visit to Northern Ireland, he raised the possibility of a bilateral UK-EU customs union.

The taoiseach described Brexit as "the challenge of this generation", reports BBC. 

In response, the UK Government said it wanted a special partnership with the EU, including an "ambitious free trade agreement and a customs agreement".

Speaking to an invited audience at Queen's University, Belfast, Mr Varadkar said: "Every single aspect of life in Northern Ireland could be affected by Brexit."

Those who favour a hard Brexit have already had 14 months to come up with a plan, he warned.

"If they cannot, and I believe they cannot, we can then talk meaningfully about solutions that might work for all of us," he said.

"The Brexit negotiations are well underway in Brussels. And, to quote (EU chief Brexit negotiator) Michel Barnier, the clock is ticking."

Mr Varadkar offered two of his own suggestions:

The possibility of an EU-UK customs union if the UK wants to remain in the customs union

A "deep free trade agreement" with the EU if the UK does not want to stay in the single market, with the possibility of its rejoining EFTA (European Free Trade Association)

The taoiseach referred to the lack of input into the Brexit debate from Northern Ireland due to the collapse of the Stormont executive, and urged politicians to do a deal to restore power-sharing.

"We need an answer to the question of who we - and others in Europe - talk to in Belfast," he said. "Who will speak for Northern Ireland and her 1.8 million people?"

 
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