Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned MEPs meeting for a plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday that “the EU is at a decisive point” in its history and must be ready to face future challenges.
Focusing primarily on Brexit, Varadkar said that most citizens of Northern Ireland are expected to retain their EU citizenship status as dual Irish-British citizens under the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is hard to imagine anything else than our shared membership of the European Union and the Single Market,” said Varadkar.
He also suggested that the UK’s tough stance on a “hard border” between the North and Ireland could be voided in order to maintain the Common Travel Area.
“For my part, I hope the new relationship between the UK and the European Union is as close and deep as possible, but consistent with the need to maintain a customs market,” Varadkar said, while calling on London to avoid “backsliding” in the next round of negotiations.
“We should be talking about what we want to achieve for our citizens rather than what they want to block or resist,” he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Varadkar to the European Parliament, suggesting that the Taoiseach has proven to be a committed European. On the first part of Brexit talks, Juncker said he had the privilege to have a close working relationship with Varadkar, adding that both the EU Commission and the Irish government worked side by side to move to the next phase of talks. Juncker was quick to add that the partnership would “continue and grow stronger”.