Commission President to visit Ireland today

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, will visit Dublin today, Wednesday, January 15, to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to discuss – among other things – Brexit and the upcoming period of negotiation for a free trade agreement between the UK and EU.

The visit comes on the first full day of General Election campaigning here, after the Taoiseach formally called a General Election yesterday for Saturday, February 8.

Also yesterday, Commissioner von der Leyen and her commission colleagues announced the €1 trillion Green Deal and Just Transition Mechanism climate change mitigation plan.

Seán Kelly, a Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, said that the Commission President was trying to show support for Ireland in the upcoming negotiations.

“Well I’d say primarily because Brexit is happening on January 31, and she wants to show support for Ireland, and in particular to ensure we don’t have a hard border…and then of course in the negotiations, which will be led by Michel Barnier and our own Phil Hogan, to ensure that we can have as close as possible to the trading relationship that we have with the UK right now,” Kelly said.

However, the MEP warned that this would be “very difficult”.

Yesterday, while announcing the election, the Taoiseach also spoke about the upcoming negotiations.

Brexit is not done yet. In fact, it’s only half-time. The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the EU, including Ireland and the UK that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities and our economy.

“The capacity to do everything else that needs to be done – health, housing, climate action, tax reform – depends on achieving this outcome. And, it has to be done by the end of the year,” he said, referencing the UK government decision to put a deadline date on the free trade negotiations of December 2020.