Theresa May and Leo Varadkar discuss Brexit ‘solution’ in 2017
Mr Varadkar was Taoiseach for much of the time that former UK Prime Minister Theresa May was in office. And during that time, he did her very few favours, said Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Mr Bassett made his remarks during a webinar organised by Yale University entitled Peacebuilding in the Wake of Brexit.
In a reference to Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar, who came into office in 2017, he said: “Again, both by our rhetoric and our actions we damaged Theresa May.
“We pushed forward with the backstop which no British Government was going to accept.
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I often quote Seamus Mallon, who said in negotiations you always let the other person get their trousers on
“I often quote Seamus Mallon, who said in negotiations you always let the other person get their trousers on.
“You don’t push things to an extreme because the person you are dealing with is often your most important ally.
“And yet we were getting speeches in Dublin which were very anti-British and almost triumphant, saying Britain is now in a weakened position.
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And also we refused to discuss the border directly with the British Government, which in my belief was a direct contravention of the Northern Ireland agreement.”
Mr Bassett went on to claim it was only when Boris Johnson came in and the prospect of a no-deal suddenly appeared on the horizon that the Irish government suddenly abandoned its previous rhetoric.
Explaining he had initially hoped the UK would vote the stay in the bloc in 2016, Mr Varadkar explained his views changed when he had some discussions with his colleagues in Dublin.
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The former Irish Premier said: “This was at the time when David Cameron had decided that he was going to Brussels to seek some reforms to the British relationship to the EU and then it was going to be put to a referendum.
“And having been involved in the Good Friday Agreement, and probably the hey-dey of British/Irish relations, I was a bit shocked to find the attitude inside government departments and politicians about Mr Cameron’s request.”
He added: “I felt that Brexit would do damage to Ireland.
”It was a dangerous policy from our point of view and I thought we should do everything we can to assist David Cameron.
“I remember being taken aback when I was told they were going to resist everything David Cameron is asking for.
”They said they were essentially going to play hardball and not going to allow the British to mess up the European Union.
“I thought that at that stage it was not in our national interest because it carried far too high a risk for Ireland.
“David Cameron was given little and the gamble failed.
“It was a bad failure for Ireland, that you are playing hardball on the basis that Cameron would win the referendum.”
“Then Theresa May came in, and she was extremely moderate and wanted to keep the UK extremely close to the European Union.”
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