Theresa May’s press conference in Macedonia – Politics live

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Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, has said the UK should table new customs plans within the next two weeks. These are from RTE’s Tony Connelly.

BREAKING: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says that the British Prime Minister Theresa May shd table a new proposal on the future customs relationship between the EU & UK within the next 2 wks, hints it cd see continued alignment btwn whole of UK and EU on customs into the future

the Taoiseach said the prime minister had given him some insights into what he called “new thinking” on the British side.

Varadkar: I said to the prime minister that any move that helped to align all of the EU and the UK in terms of customs into the future would be beneficial.

“It would help solve some of the problems related to the border but not all of them. It would certainly help us continue to trade between Britain and Ireland much as we do now.”

Following a 45 minute meeting on the margins of the EU-Western Balkans Summit, Mr Varadkar warned repeatedly that keeping the UK aligned on customs was not the only thing required to avoid a hard border.

Theresa May’s new thinking, he said, was presented “verbally and conceptually” and as such Dublin could not respond until it was presented as a formal written proposal in the Brexit negotiations.

Taoiseach said he was “not discouraged”by the meeting.

“The PM gave me an insight into some new thinking the UK government as in relation to customs. Obviously we’ll see how that develops. We haven’t been able to get any detail on that yet,but certainly any move on customs that brings the U.K. closer to the EU is to be welcomed.

He said he made it clear to the prime minister that Ireland would insist on its red line of a legally operable backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement, whatever progress was made on customs.

Asked if the Theresa May could deliver on a new customs relationship given the depths of opposition by hardliners in her cabinet, the Taoiseach said he believed she could, although it involved the “internal politics of the UK.

Here are the main points from Theresa May’s press conference.

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement.

We are working on what our future customs relationship with the European Union will be. In December, when the joint report was published between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we set out clearly options in relation to the commitment that we have given for no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We expect that to be dealt through the overall relationship we have with the European Union. But there were then two further levels of option, including the final fallback option.

The commission then published a fallback option which was not acceptable to to us. And we will be bringing forward our own proposal for that fallback option in due course.

First of all, we are very clear that we will be leaving the customs union. We will be, in future, outside that customs union able to develop our own independent trade policy …

We are committed, as we leave the customs union and as we look to that future economic partnership, to ensuring that we have a relationship that enables us to have as frictionless trade with the European Union as possible, that we also do [avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland] but also that we are able to have an independent trade policy. And that’s what we will be doing and ensuring that at the end of the implementation period – so, as from the end of December 2020 – we will be able to be operating an independent trade policy.

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