VP Pence Tells Truculent Ireland to Cooperate With Britain on Brexit

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks to members of the media after holding talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Famleigh House in Phoenix Park, Dublin, on September 3, 2019, on day two of the US Vice President's visit to Ireland. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo credit …
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Vice President Mike Pence and the Irish Prime Minister met Tuesday, with the U.S. leader calling on Ireland to be more cooperative with Britain on Brexit and urging the nation to adopt a position of “good faith”.

The Irish Republic, the only EU member state to share a land border with the United Kingdom has been elevated to a position disproportionate importance, Brexiteers say, by the European Union in the course of Brexit negotiations. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, the leader of a small nation of less than five million souls has also enjoyed a period of unusual prominence and has become a regular fixture at international events as the European Union has treated his attitude towards Brexit as being of great importance.

Yet the intransigent attitude towards the British government’s attempts to renegotiate a deeply disadvantageous Brexit deal originally agreed to by fallen former Prime Minister Theresa May has been noticed in the United States, as Vice President Mike Pence urged a more cooperative stance from the Atlantic nation.

Irish publication The Journal reports the VP called on Ireland to negotiate in “good faith” with Britain’s Boris Johnson as the Brexit deadline approached, noting particularly the importance of respecting the Sovereignty of the United Kingdom, and of not disrupting trade.

Varadkar replied with characteristic pessimism over Brexit, telling Pence: “…the UK’s 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.

“I know that you understand the impact a hard border will have on us on this island – barriers to the free movement of people and frictionless trade; barriers to North/South co-operation; the risk that the Good Friday Agreement and peace will be undermined.”

Varadkar has often been at the front of the queue to throw brickbats over Brexit. In March he said the United Kingdom had been “chasing unicorns” and said if the country wanted to cancel Brexit, the European Union would welcome it back.

The so-called Northern Irish backstop has been one of the major impediments to the progress of Brexit, although it is by far from the only one. Speaking in January, Brexit leader Nigel Farage said Irish leader Varadkar was playing “the Brussels game of threatening the British”.

He said: “I have to say, I find it remarkable that the taoiseach is not pushing for a free trade deal.”

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