Ireland Declares It Is ‘On Team EU’, Wants UK to Obey EU Rules Post-Brexit

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar stands with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as she signs the Visitors' Book during their meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin, on January 15, 2020. - The European Union's top official said Wednesday the bloc was ready to work "day and night" to …
BRIAN LAWLESS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has declared that Ireland is “on team EU” and thanked the bloc for its “solidarity” while telling its British neighbours they must agree to abide by Brussels’ anti-competitive “level playing field” rules after Brexit to secure a trade deal.

The Irish prime minister — or Taoiseach — made the comments during a press conference with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in Dublin on Wednesday.

“I really want to restate Ireland’s deep appreciation and thanks for the solidarity from the Commission and the European institutions and other member states,” the prime minister of the Republic of Ireland said.

Mr Varadkar asserted that the British must abide by EU regulations so that the EU institutions of the Customs Union and Single Market are “not diluted”.

He said: “It is our desire that it should be an agreement in which there are no quotas, no taxes, the minimum text and administration necessary but there also has to be a level playing field so that the Single Market and the Customs Union are not diluted.

“And we must have common minimum standards so that the UK doesn’t attempt in any way to undercut the EU when it comes to labour standards, environmental standards, health and safety, product standards.”

Ireland joins Germany and France in their remarks that Britain must stay closely aligned to the EU after Brexit in order to ensure a trade deal between London and Brussels. Both major countries on the continent have complained that British deregulation could make the United Kingdom more competitive than the notoriously bureaucratic EU, with France’s EU minister Amélie de Montchalin saying last year she did not want Brexit Britain becoming “a tax haven at the gates of Europe”.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also reiterated that the further the British diverged, the less likely that Brussels would grant a deal, saying: “the closer they want to be to the single market, of course, they have to align to the rules of the Single Market. The less they want to abide by the rules of the Single Market, the more distant they will be, the more difficult it will be to have access.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the United Kingdom will diverge after Brexit, not only to make the country more competitive globally, but because too close alignment to EU institutions could block future free trade agreements with economic powerhouses like the United States.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told Mr Johnson that it was time to get tough with the EU in negotiations. The United Kingdom has not yet left the EU and negotiations have not officially begun with Brussels, however, and eurocrats are already threatening that unless the United Kingdom remains closely aligned an abides by the bloc’s other demands — such as giving EU migrants extensive rights overseen by EU institutions — then there will be no trade deal.

In private talks in London last week, Mr Johnson was said to have been prepared to tell von der Leyen that the United Kingdom is looking for a free trade agreement but no alignment, and that the UK was ready to walk away without a deal.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that the United Kingdom must not ignore EU regulations, but admitted in October that a No Deal 2.0 was still possible at the end of trade negotiations in December 2020.

Remain campaigner Tony Blair even said that it was the most likely outcome, saying last year: “Europe is now on notice from Britain and its ministers that Britain wants Brexit to compete around tax and regulation, to become an off-shore competitor with the European Union.

“What is absolutely clear is that Europe is not going to have that. They’re going to say to the UK side — this is why this negotiation is going to be very ugly and very difficult — they’re going to say, ‘No, we’re not giving you tariff-free access to our markets if you’re going to start using a whole lot of competitive tax and regulatory measures in order to undercut us’.”

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