Donald Tusk pledges "Ireland first" approach to Brexit negotiations

The European Council President met with Leo Varadkar at Leinster House this afternoon

Donald Tusk pledges "Ireland first" approach to Brexit negotiations

Leo Varadkar and Donald Tusk. Photo: Sam Boal/

The Taoiseach has met with the President of the European Council this afternoon to discuss Brexit.

Donald Tusk said the Good Friday Agreement needs to be protected, and there cannot be any backsliding on political deals reached around the border with Northern Ireland.

Mr Tusk said the will of the Irish people, as well as the Good Friday Agreement, is as important as the decision by British voters.

Speaking at a press conference following his meeting at Leinster House, Mr Tusk said: "We must recognise the democratic decision taken by Britain to leave the EU in 2016... just as we must recognise the democratic decision made on the island of Ireland in 1998, with all its consequences."

On the UK's current position, Mr Tusk observed: "We know today that the UK government rejects a customs & regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union. While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific solution to avoid a hard border.

"As long as the UK doesn't present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations."

He insisted that the Irish border remains a priority, even with the agreement reached last December to progress talks to Phase II.

Mr Tusk noted: "If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be - Ireland first".

Donald Tusk's latest visit to Dublin comes ahead of the next meeting of the European Council meeting on March 22nd and 23rd.