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Leo Varadkar: Hard border is not 'inevitable' after Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted a hard border is not inevitable after Brexit. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

THE Taoiseach has insisted that a hard border, post-Brexit, is not "inevitable".

During angry exchanges in the Dáil yesterday, Leo Varadkar rejected claims from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that the government had buried a report by the Revenue Commissioners on the impact of the UK's departure from the European Union.

The report, which spelled out the physical and economic impact of Brexit on customs in the Republic, found an open border will be impossible after the UK leaves the bloc.

"While some form of common travel area may exist post-Brexit, a completely open border is not possible from a customs perspective," the report found.

Politicians have called for publication of the internal document.

Mr Martin said the report demonstrated the huge impact Brexit will have on the Republic.

"Once negotiations are completed, the UK will become a third country for customs purposes and associated formalities will become unavoidable," he said.

"And while this will affect all member states, the effect will be more profound in Ireland."

The Fianna Fáil leader accused the government of suppressing the report.

"The government did act in bad faith and you did withhold this from the Dáil in the form of parliamentary questions that were asked that were not properly and comprehensively answered as they should have been," he said.

Mr Varadkar said the report, drafted in 2015 before last year's Brexit referendum, was a "desktop analysis by the Revenue Commissioners about what may happen in the event of a hard Brexit".

He said he only became aware of the report several days ago and had "no difficulty" with publishing it.

"There is nothing in it that should be a surprise to anyone," he added.

He said his government would resist "defeatism", including any suggestion that a hard border is "inevitable".

"Is Fianna Fáil actually arguing now that we should start training up border guards, that we should start getting dogs ready, that we should start checking out sites for border posts, start checking out sites for truck stops?" he said.

"Is this what Fianna Fáil, the republican party, wants to happen?"

He added that only politics could resolve the border problem.

"I've never been a one to be talking about invisible borders, frictionless borders and telepathic borders or some IT-based solution to this," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar is expected to further address the impact of Brexit on the border at a Derry Chamber of Commerce dinner tomorrow.

The Taoiseach will be the key speaker at the event in the White Horse Hotel in the city.

Chamber president George Fleming said its members were pleased Mr Varadkar will be attending.

"Brexit however must be viewed not only as a threat, but as an opportunity," he said. "Our position on the Foyle, in close proximity to the Republic, must open more doors for local business, rather than close them."

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