Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside the Stormont Hotel on January 12.
Brian Lawless – Pa Pictures | Pa Images | Getty Images
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that there had not yet been a breakthrough in Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade rules, but expressed hope that a deal was within reach.
“We’re not there yet. I hope we get there,” Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Varadkar told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“I think so, Mr. Prime Minister [Rishi] It seems that Sunak and the British government are very serious about reaching an agreement and settling this issue. And I think there is increased flexibility on the part of the European Union, which includes Ireland, in terms of reaching an agreement.”
Varadkar recognized other issues that needed attention, “The Protocol is important, but there is a war in Ukraine, there is a global recession, an energy crisis, inflation and Europe and the UK have to work together.”
He added that “any obstacle to further cooperation that we can remove is, I think, in everyone’s interest.”
His comments come shortly after Irish Finance Minister Michael McGrath spoke of growing optimism and “welcome signs of progress” around the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
“The talks are continuing and there seems to be a better mood overall, more positive discussions between the EU and the UK,” McGrath told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetch on Wednesday.
“And I think it is in everyone’s interest that a negotiated agreement is reached soon so that we can have free trade across the Irish Sea, between Britain and Ireland – north and south – and to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the peace. ” he said.
Britain and the European Union agreed on cooperation on Mondayconstructive and collaborative spirit” to resolve the Northern Ireland trade dispute after Brexit.
“Both sides discussed a number of existing challenges over the past two years and the need to find solutions together,” European Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a joint statement.
This follows months of talks to end a bitter political row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of a post-Brexit trade deal that requires checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government collapsed almost a year ago when the Democratic Unionist Party resigned in protest against an effective border in the Irish Sea.
Varadkar he said last week he hoped that an agreement could be reached on the protocol and mend relations with Northern Ireland’s political parties. However, according to him, the agreement does not necessarily lead to the restoration of the executive power of Northern Ireland.
— CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this report.