US vice-president urges taoiseach and EU to negotiate with UK in good faith
The US vice-president and the taoiseach have clashed over Brexit, with Mike Pence urging Leo Varadkar and the EU to work with Boris Johnson to protect the United Kingdoms sovereignty and limit trade chaos.
Pence also asked Varadkar to support the US in its quest for a new trade deal with the EU.
Pence made the intervention in the Brexit crisis during a two-day visit to Ireland, where his grandfather was born. In an uncomfortable press conference following a meeting in Dublin, he indicated his full support for Johnson over Brexit.
Let me be clear: the US supports the UK decision to leave the EU in Brexit, he told Varadkar in a prepared statement. But we also recognise the unique challenges on your northern border.
And I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit respects the Good Friday agreement.
But instead of an expected anodyne statement designed to ensure his upcoming meeting with Johnson was not undermined, he went on to emphasise the USs clear support for the UKs position.
As the deadline for Brexit approaches we urge Ireland and the European Union, as well, to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson, and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdoms sovereignty and minimises the disruption to commerce, he said.
The United States will look to play whatever hopeful role we can play.
As President Trump announced last week, when Brexit is complete, the United States will have a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
He went on to ask the taoiseach for his continued support for a new free trade agreement with the EU, reminding him: When Brexit is complete we will have a new free trade agreement with the UK.
The vice-president and the taoiseach held talks and had lunch with their families over an hour and a half at Farmleigh House in Dublin.
Varadkar told reporters they had had a marvellous meeting earlier but urged him to return to Washington with the message that peace was at risk in Northern Ireland.
He told Pence that Brexit risked being deeply disruptive especially for the people in Northern Ireland, and would risk creating barriers to free movement of people, north-south co-operation and peace.
The UKs decision to travel a different course to ours risks being deeply disruptive, especially for the people of Northern Ireland, where most people voted to stay in Europe.
Divergence between the UK and the EU means that the return of a hard border on this island is a very real risk.
That is why we must stand our ground on the withdrawal agreement, an agreement which was carefully negotiated to overcome all these risks.
And so Mr Vice-President I ask that you bring that message back to Washington with you. This is not a problem of our making, Varadkar told him.
Pence refused to take questions from dozens of assembled reporters.