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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tells Britain to 'tone down nationalistic rhetoric' on BBC's Andrew Marr Show

Irish Mirror logoIrish Mirror 02/02/2020 Press Association

Leo Varadkar wearing a suit and tie: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show © BBC Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called for the British Government not to repeat mistakes of the past by putting down "rigid red lines" - and told the British to "tone down the nationalistic rhetoric".

Mr Varadkar told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show this morning: "I just want to say that we regret the fact that the UK has left the European Union, but we totally accept your decision and we're glad that is happening with the Withdrawal Agreement and in an orderly fashion that means there will be no hard border between North and South (on the island of Ireland) and the citizens' rights are protected and the common travel area between Britain and Ireland remains in place.

"I think looking at your papers today, I would just really have one reflection.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 17: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) reacts to a greeting from Hungarian President Viktor Orban as Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) looks on at a summit of European Union leaders on October 17, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. EU and British negotiators come to an agreement earlier today on the United Kingdom's departure from the EU.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 17: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) reacts to a greeting from Hungarian President Viktor Orban as Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (R) looks on at a summit of European Union leaders on October 17, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. EU and British negotiators come to an agreement earlier today on the United Kingdom's departure from the EU. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

"I think we all learned a lot, certainly I've learned a lot from the past two-and-a-half years dealing with Brexit and dealing with two different British prime ministers.

"One thing I'd say to everyone is let's not repeat some of the errors that were made in the past two-and-a-half years, let's not set such rigid red lines that it makes it hard to come to an agreement and let's tone down the kind of nationalistic rhetoric.

"As is always the case when it comes to negotiations, setting out so boldly such firm red lines actually makes coming to an agreement more difficult because the other party you are negotiating with doesn't feel they got a fair deal unless those red lines get turned pink or bent in some way."

Mr Varadkar also urged those in power in Britain and in the media to be cautious of their Brexit "rhetoric".

Asked about claims that British ambassadors have been told not to sit beside EU ambassadors at international summits, Mr Varadkar described it as "petty".

A British Union flag from Brexit day celebrations lies in the grass in front of the Palace of Westminster in London, early Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Britain officially left the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) © Catalyst Images A British Union flag from Brexit day celebrations lies in the grass in front of the Palace of Westminster in London, early Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Britain officially left the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

"I think it just comes across as being a little bit petty. It's kind of when you're in primary school or in secondary school that you get worried about who you sit beside in class," he added.

"Most international forums that I've attended, whether it's UN or other international bodies, you tend to be seated either in alphabetical order or according to protocol.

"So I don't really know what that's about but it seems that seems a bit silly, surely everyone should be trying to work with everyone?"

Turning closer to home and reacting to a poll that now shows Sinn Fein neck and neck with Fianna Fail on 24%, while his party Fine Gael languishes behind on 21%, Mr Varadkar said Sinn Fein are "soft on crime".

He added that there will difficulty over Brexit negotiations if there is trouble forming an Irish government - which might be "quite difficult".

The Victoria Tower stands in Westminster, in London, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Britain has officially left the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) © Catalyst Images The Victoria Tower stands in Westminster, in London, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Britain has officially left the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

He added: "Negotiations will take place between the UK and the EU, but we're very much plugged into the EU side. We're part of the 'Team 27' and we have a lot of influence in that regard as the EU trade commissioner is an Irishman," he added.

"I think there will be difficulty if we have trouble forming a government in Ireland.

"The reason why the election is happening now is I took the decision that now was the best time, that there was a window of opportunity to have an election here in Ireland.

"We'd have to have one anyway by spring of next year.

"I chose this as the window of opportunity to have an election and to have a new government in place by that crucial European Council meeting in March, so I know that is something the Irish public will reflect on when they go to the polls at the weekend, we need to have a stable government because that's essential for our future in so many different ways."

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