Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Emmanuel Macron at their joint press conference in Paris.
By Evan Short
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that most people from Northern Ireland will be Irish citizens after Brexit.
Mr. Varadkar was speaking following a series of meetings in Brussels with other EU leaders.
There has still been no breakthrough in the first strand of talks between the UK government and the EU over the border in Ireland, the British government’s divorce bill to be paid to the EU, and the rights of EU citizens in Britain, and British citizens living in the EU post-Brexit.
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People living in Northern Ireland after Brexit, who have Irish passports, will be able to accrue of the benefits of being an EU citizen.
Mr. Varadkar said he had discussed the Irish border situation specifically with leaders of the EU’s Nordic countries.
“One point I made to them, which is one I think that does surprise some European leaders, is that after Brexit…it’s very likely that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will be Irish and European citizens.
“Even people from a unionist background will want to become Irish and European citizens, at the very least for the convenience.
“So I think more and more European leaders are understanding the unique situation that pertains to Northern Ireland – a territory that’s going to be outside the European Union in which the majority of citizens are European citizens – and the majority of which at least voted to stay in the European Union.”
However, DUP MP Gregory Campbell was having none of it.
“To try and infer this is some sort of declaration of Irishness is just ludicrous and absurd,” said the East Derry MP.
“To state what he has done without any evidence gives the appearance of declaring that there are people in Northern Ireland who would prefer to be Irish.
“Last week I got the latest reply about the other side of the question: that tens of thousands of his own citizens are applying each year for British passports.”
Mr. Campbell added: “Some people avail of two passports for all sorts of reasons. Some people are happy to live outside the EU, but like to travel within it.”
That said, in the UK Brexit referendum, a majority of voters in Northern Ireland took the opposite tack to Mr. Campbell by making it clear that they wanted to live inside the EU, as well as travel in it.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanual Macron has said that Britain must find concrete proposals to tackle issues concerning the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland in the wake of Brexit.
The French leader’s view was expressed during a joint news conference with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Paris.
“It’s up to the UK to come up with concrete proposals to minimize the impact of Brexit on the British/Irish border,” said Macron.
Earlier this month, according to an Irish Independent report, Varadkar had said Ireland wanted Britain to commit to a fallback option that would avoid a customs border returning to the island of Ireland should its plan of keeping the closest possible ties with the EU fall through.
European leaders, according to the report, decided last weekend that Britain had not made enough progress on exit negotiations to begin work on devising a future relationship (with the EU), leading to concern in Europe and the world that Britain could crash out of the bloc in disorderly fashion with serious economic and political consequences.