Leo Varadkar lays out Brexit priorities as Donald Tusk hits out at Jeremy Hunt's 'USSR' comments

European Council President Donald Tusk, left, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrive before their meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has laid out four priorities he wants to see addressed as the push for a Brexit deal continues.

The taoiseach said the Republic's objectives remained as they have been since the start of the process - protecting the Common Travel Area on the island; ensuring no hard border; protecting the rights of Irish citizens living in the north; and striking a trade deal with the UK.

He said: "I want to very much agree with Donald Tusk in his call for us to get down to business."

"I am very keen to see an agreement concluded by November if at all possible - that is the interest of Ireland, the EU and the UK."

Mr Varadkar thanked the EU for its "ongoing solidarity" with the Republic.

In a statement delivered alongside the taoiseach, European Council president Donald Tusk said comparing the EU to the Soviet Union is as "unwise as it is insulting".

Mr Tusk urged greater respect in Brexit negotiations after British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt controversially compared the European Union to the USSR.

Mr Tusk said: "In respecting our partners, we expect the same in return.

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"Comparing the EU to the Soviet Union is as unwise as it is insulting.

"The Soviet Union was about prisons and gulags, borders and walls, violence against citizens and neighbours.

"The European Union is about freedom and human rights, prosperity and peace, life without fear, it is about democracy and pluralism - a continent without internal borders and walls.

"As the President of the European Council and someone who spent half his life in the Soviet bloc, I know what I am talking about."

Mr Tusk said telling the truth was the best way to approach negotiations.

In an apparent reference to the British government's reaction to last month's Salzburg meeting of European leaders, he rejected any suggestion that the EU was not respecting the dignity of the British.

"Telling the truth, even if difficult and unpleasant, is the best way of showing respect for partners, that's how it was in Salzburg and that's also how it will work in the coming days."

He added: "Emotional arguments that stress the issue of dignity sound attractive but they do not facilitate agreement.

"Let us remember that every actor in this process has their dignity and confrontation in this field will not lead to anything good."

The EU council president added: "Unacceptable remarks that raise the temperature will achieve nothing except wasting more time.

"What needs to be done is maximum progress by the October European Council."

Mr Tusk also suggested the Conservative Party conference had served to stall progress in negotiations.

"I was party leader myself for 15 years and I know what the rules of party politics are," he said.

"But now the Tory party conference is over we should get down to business."

Mr Tusk said the EU remained "united behind Ireland" and the need to "preserve the Northern Ireland peace process".

"Despite the UK government's rejection of the original EU backstop proposal we will not give up seeking a workable solution that fully respects the Good Friday Agreement as well as the integrity of the single market and customs union," he said.

Asked whether Mr Hunt should resign over his comments about the Soviet Union, Mr Tusk replied: "That's not my problem."

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