LONDON — Ireland’s Taoiseach has said that he is “confused and puzzled” over the UK’s Brexit trade plans, saying they are not a “realistic position.”
Leo Varadkar said: “I think I’d be right to say on behalf of the European governments that we’re not satisfied with the progress that has been made so far,” in an interview with Bloomberg.
The Irish premier made the comments during a tour of Canada, where he met Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and visited the US-Canada border to look at options for the Irish border.
Speaking about the UK’s trade plans, Varadkar said: “That’s not a realistic position. What trade agreement does the U.K. want with the EU? At the moment, they have the best trade deal imaginable.
“What are these better deals the U.K. really wants from Europe and other countries? Some more clarity would be helpful.”
He said: “Where we’re confused and puzzled is…on what trade agreement the United Kingdom wants with the European Union.”
The Taoiseach reiterated that he did not want a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, a problematic issue for both the UK and the EU.
The Irish border is one of three issues that the EU wants to be solved first in Brexit negotiations, and the government released a position paper on the issue last week, in which it argued against a return to a hard border.
Varadkar appeared to pointedly reference the border issue in a tweet on Tuesday:
There have been reports that Brexit talks will be delayed as key issues have not been resolved, with the Slovenian prime minister saying the process will “definitely take more time.”
Vardkar said: “We hope that more progress can be made and that that progress will be sufficient when we meet in October to allow the talks to continue to the next phase, but to date, the progress has not been sufficient.”
The other key issues are EU citizen’s rights and the Brexit withdrawal bill, both of which are outstanding issues.
The Taoiseach said European leaders were “keen to know what will happen” to their citizens after the UK leaves the EU, and that “there’s no agreement yet on the amount of money that Britain will be paying.”
Commenting on the UK’s approach to Brexit, he said: “What they seem to have been suggesting for the last 14 months is that they want to have all the advantages of being in the EU but none of the responsibilities and costs.”