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Statement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following today’s speech by the Prime Minister May

I have listened to the Prime Minister’s speech, and the Government will study it closely.

She has given a number of important reassurances today, which I welcome, including restating her overall goal of a very close relationship with the EU.

I particularly welcome her clear commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland peace process and the need to avoid a hard border, and to the agreement reached between the UK and the EU in their December Joint Report.

The speech included a number of signals about the type of future economic relationship that the UK Government wants. But it also recognised that the UK will face hard choices given constraints between some of the UK aims and the consequences of withdrawing from the European Union.

For our part, a close economic relationship is very much in the interests of Irish business, as is a smooth transition period.

However, I remain concerned that some of the constraints of leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market are still not fully recognised.

We will now need to see more detailed and realistic proposals from the UK. Brexit is due to happen in a little over 12 months, so time is short.

Meanwhile, we will continue to work closely with Michel Barnier and his team, and the other Member States, as we prepare for the March European Council, which is expected to agree new Negotiation Guidelines.

Progress on the Withdrawal Agreement published last week will be important in the context of that next phase of work.