It is crucial to have tariff and quota-free trade between Ireland and Britain after Brexit, Leo Varadkar has said.
The Irish premier said there is an assurance that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the all-island economy can continue to “develop and thrive” without any trade barriers between the north and south.
He said the strong economic relationship that will exist between the UK and the EU will have to be maintained after Brexit.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin following a meeting of the British-Irish Council, he said: “There certainly won’t be any checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. There will be no checks and no tariffs and no quotas. Businesses in Northern Ireland can be assured of that.
“In terms of negotiating a trade agreement before December 2020 – I think that is difficult but not impossible.
“We should bear in mind it would be a new treaty – a treaty between the European Union and the United Kingdom around trade and other matters and that would have to be ratified – not just by the House of Commons but the other 27 European states,” he said.
“Even though the deal might be agreed, we could run into issues around ratification,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he will discuss Britain’s Withdrawal Agreement when he meets new president-elect of the European Council Charles Michel in Dublin on Friday night.
“Once that Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, we need to get down to business very quickly – February or March – to negotiate a free trade agreement.”
“If we have a new trading relationship that is very similar to the current one then it is more like the status quo and will be quicker to negotiate,” he said.
“The more Britain diverges from the current trading agreement and the current status quo then it is going to get longer to get done.”
“One thing that I want to achieve for Irish businesses, farmers and exporters is tariff-free, quota-free trade with Great Britain and not just Northern Ireland.”