Post-Brexit talks failure 'existential threat' to Ireland

3 min

Dublin (AFP)

A failure by Britain and the European Union to reach a post-Brexit trade deal by the end-of-year deadline would pose an "existential threat" to Ireland, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Friday.

The Irish leader also called on the European Union to find a new role in the post-Cold War era -- such as tackling global warming -- that could keep other countries from leaving the soon-to-be 27 member bloc.

"We have to be realistic about the dangers," he said in a speech in Dublin as Britain leaves the EU after 47 years.

"A failure to secure a trade deal would be a major threat, and an existential threat to our economy in 2021, so we do need that deal."

Britain will continue following EU rules on trade and other issues during an 11-month transition period that has been set aside to decide their future ties.

London has until July to ask for an extension -- something Johnson has vowed not to do despite warnings that such talks usually take far more time.

Ireland shares a border with Britain's Northern Ireland and will be directly impacted if there is no new trade deal by the end of the year.

Dublin wants London and Brussels to secure as broad a free-trade agreement as possible. But this would require Britain to continue following many EU rules.

Johnson has said he wants Britain to set its own standards and regulations.

"We know it's going to be a pretty rocky couple of months," said Varadkar.

- A reason for being -

Varadkar called Brexit a day of great sadness that also showed the benefits of single European membership.

He also thanked EU leaders for supporting Ireland in the negotiations that allowed Britain to finally leave after three delays.

"The UK leaving is not a cause of celebration for us. There will be no issuing of commemorative coins for this event," he said in reference to the 50-pences issued by Johnson's government.

"But we do celebrate the solidarity that has been shown by EU partners, and we say thank you to our fellow Europeans," he said.

"United we stand, divided we fall."

And he warned that the bloc's original reason for existing -- preventing catastrophic wars from breaking out in Europe and standing up to the Soviet bloc -- no longer registered with younger generations.

"For young people today, the horrors of world war and the evils of fascism and communism are not in their memory. For them, Europe needs a new project, a new raison d'etre," he said.

"Dealing with challenges that can only be overcome through collective action, multilateral action must be that raison etre, with climate change first among them,"

New European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is hoping to commit a trillion euros to a "Green Deal" that can make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.