Pressemøde den 4. oktober 2019
Det talte ord gælder.
Mette Frederiksen: Welcome. All of you.
I ́m very happy today to receive my Irish colleague, today, in Copenhagen.
I ́m very happy that you agreed with me that we should go by bike together today.
Before our meeting. To see some of our urban solutions.
Leo Varadkar: You didn ́t convince me on the kayak...
Mette Frederiksen: No, I tried, actually, to get you into the kayaks. But you said no, and then we went on bike instead.
But maybe next time.
Leo Varadkar: When there ́s no cameras.
Mette Frederiksen: When there ́s no cameras, yes.
I ́ll just say a few words and then I ́ll pass the floor (on to you) and then we ́re open for some questions as well. I ́ll just say in a few lines that today’s world is in many ways ... it reminds us that we cannot take anything for granted. The world is changing and I only need to mention Brexit.
I consider Ireland a close friend to Denmark. Close bonds to Ireland when it comes to commercial cooperation. I ́m very happy that Enterprise Ireland officially opened today. Here in Copenhagen.
I think it ́s good news. When it comes to investments and when it comes to trade between our two countries.
One very important issue we discussed today is, of course, the green agenda. It must be given top priority for both countries. And I think we have to work closely together to meet the climate changes on both a political and a practical level. Domestically and within the European level.
I think our first political goal is to reach an agreement on CO2 neutrality within the European Union by 2050.
We also had the opportunity to have a short discussion about the EU budget. We explained our positions.
I ́ll just say a few words about the Danish one. We can ́t just spend, if you ask me, and I think we need to be very restrictive when it comes to the EU budget.
Of course, what we have discussed a lot is Brexit. Deadline at the end of the month.
And I think this is a great opportunity for us to discuss how to handle this very difficult situation. Of course, primarily Ireland but also Denmark will be affected by Brexit.
And I understand that the British government wants a new discussion and of course we are ready to do so. The next couple of weeks are uncertain. And, of course, we are all preparing, I think, for a no-deal. But I still hope that we will be able to find a solution.
And with these few words I pass the floor to you.
Leo Varadkar: Thank you very much, prime minister, and thank you so much for your hospitality. Here in Copenhagen.
I was here this morning to open our new Enterprise Ireland office, our 39th in the world and also to meet with the prime minister and I ́m honoured to be the first visiting prime minister to come to Copenhagen since your election.
And, congratulations on your election, and I hope to work very closely with you in the years ahead. We ́ve met, of course, in Brussels and in New York, but this is the first time we ́ve managed to meet bilaterally in one of our capitals. And I ́d love to see you come to Dublin, at some stage, whenever you ́re able to find the time you ́d be extremely welcome.
The visit today is really all about deepening the relations between Ireland and Denmark. Political relations, economic relations and also person to person-relations. Our bilateral relationship is very good, always has been very good. But we think it can be deepened and strengthened further.
And Denmark and Ireland are very much two countries that share similar views and similar values, both within the European Union and also on the world stage.
So, I think there ́s a lot that we can do together. As you can imagine we had a good discussion on Brexit, assessing the stage of play there and the prospect of securing an agreement in the next few weeks.
We also had a very good discussion on climate change and on the environment and I think Denmark is a country that can teach Ireland a lot about how we can do better on climate action and on the environment. Everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to renewable energy, to what I saw today in the way in which this is such a city that ́s friendly to cycling. And to people walking as well. A really calm and liveable city. A good example perhaps to be followed by urban areas across Ireland.
And we ́ve had discussions as well on the MFF. We ́re coming from a slightly different perspective to Denmark. Denmark has been a long- term Net contributor to the EU budget.
Ireland is a Net contributor for the first time now, and we anticipate that our contributions to the EU budget are going to increase considerably over the next four or five years because of the growth in our economy. And our focus is very much on making sure that the money that we pay into the European budget is actually well spent.
That administration costs are minimized, but that we have adequate funding for programs that work very well, like the common agriculture policy, like research investment, Horizon, and investment in security as well. But I suppose we are beginning the discussions on that and that ́s going to be a really huge issue for the new commission and the new council president when they take up office in the next few months.
Mette Frederiksen: And now the floor is open. Maybe we ́ll start with some questions from the Irish press?
Daniel Mc Connell, The Irish Examiner: Thank you very much. Obviously, a lot has happened over night and your comment yesterday in Stockholm drew the eye of Arlene Foster. The Tánaiste’s comments as well.
Things have moved on significantly since then. The Scottish court has revealed that the British prime minister looks likely to accept or look for an extension on October 19th. What is your comment in relation to those developments and do you regret the comments you made to Arlene Foster or about the DUP yesterday?
And to the Danish prime minister: Will Ireland come under significant pressure in the coming days to exceed to British demands or will Europe stand in solidarity with Ireland?
Leo Varadkar: First of all, I don't really want to comment on court cases that are happening in the UK. They will play themselves out. Our focus is on securing an agreement, on getting a deal at the EU council summit. I believe that ́s possible. But for it to be possible, all sides have to reaffirm the shared objectives. When this started, two or three years ago, coming to an agreement required that there would be no hard border between Ireland, north and south. That the integrity of the single market of the European Union would be protected and that the all-island economy would be protected. So, I think what we need to do is refocus on those objectives and try to come to an agreement by the middle of October, which I think is possible.
In terms of anything I said yesterday. I don ́t think I said anything at all about the DUP, so. (Laughs)
I can ́t regret a comment I didn ́t make. But what I can say is that I am not interested in a quarrel with anyone.
I am interested in coming to solutions. But any solution that pertains to Northern Ireland and Ireland has to have the support of the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
And I ́m conscious that we had an agreement with prime minister May and that agreement was supported by four parties in Northern Ireland, representing the majority of people of Northern Ireland as well as the business society, as well as the civil society.
What has been put on the table by Prime Minister Johnson is not supported by business in Northern Ireland, by the civil society, and is supported by only one political party. So I think there is a long way to go to before we can get back to a position where we have an agreement that actually carries the support of the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the Republic of Ireland as well. Democracy matters. And any agreement that affects Ireland deeply of course has to have the support of people on both parts of the island.
Mette Frederiksen: I don ́t think Ireland should be put under pressure. And I think the rest of Europe should stand together with Ireland as we have already done.
Question: Prime minister, Boris Johnson has proposed to minimize the need for checks by moving some of it to the Irish Sea and moving some of it away from the border. And the rest of it should be done by computers, or on computers. But even that seems to be too hard a border for you. So I ́d like to know: is it no checks or no deal for you?
And for Mette Frederiksen: The Taoiseach is a key player in avoiding a no deal Brexit, that would also cost jobs in Denmark. Do you think he has shown enough willingness to compromise or would you like him to relax some of his red lines? The Taoiseach?
Leo Varadkar: From Ireland’s point of view, we regret that Brexit is happening. But we respect the decision of the UK people to leave the European Union. As a consequence of Brexit, we have always acknowledged that there would have to be checks, regrettably, and we have argued the least intrusive way is to do that is to have those checks at the ports and in the airports rather than along a long 500 km border with 300 crossings.
The agreement we came to with prime minister May satisfied that, allowed for those checks to take place in the ports and airports and not along the land border.
The difficulty with what Prime Minister Johnson has put on the table, on the face of it at least, it appears to create two borders, checks, in the ports and the airports and also near the land border.
That ́s the difficulty we have with that, that the people of Northern Ireland have, and businesses community have in Northern Ireland, too.
Mette Frederiksen: I would say that I think that no one wins when it comes to Brexit.
And I think we should do, still, all we can to avoid it. And to try to find a good solution.
But at the same time, I respect that there are some special difficulties when it comes to Ireland, and I actually, truly respect that.
Question: ... Would you, if Boris Johnson does ... I know you said you don ́t want to comment on court cases that are ongoing, but if Boris Johnson does submit a request for an extension by October the 19th, would you consider it? Both of you?
Leo Varadkar: The short answer to your question is yes. My preference is that we come to an agreement, that we have a deal in the middle of October, and we can then begin the negotiations on the future relationship and the free trade agreement.
As I ́ve always said, Brexit doesn ́t end with the UK leaving. It just moves to the next stage in negotiations. So, my preference is that we have that agreement at the council in the middle of October. But if the UK government were to request an extension, I think we would consider that. Of course we would consider it. But I think most EU countries would really only consider it for a good reason. And that reason would have to be put forward. But certainly, an extension would be better than no deal.
Mette Frederiksen: I prefer an agreement, of course, but to answer very short: Yes. To your question. TV2?
Question TV2: Prime minister, you said before that the latest proposal from Boris Johnson, the people of Ireland cannot accept that. But what is the alternative? What is your suggestion for a solution, if we should reach a solution by the end of this month?
Leo Varadkar: I think we had a solution. And that solution is the withdrawal agreement including the protocol ... on Ireland which we negotiated in good faith with the British Government over the course of two years. And that ́s a solution that was supported by 28 member states, 28 member state governments, including the British government.
Unfortunately, it didn ́t secure the ratification of the House of Commons and it ́s not abundantly clear to us that there ́s any agreement that will secure a majority in the House of Commons, but we have to work towards that, and we ́re willing to do so.
Question: And, Mette Frederiksen, just one question for you also: Obviously here in Denmark we talk a lot about the consequences for Denmark with Brexit. But have you told anything to the Irish prime minister, that we can help them? Because they are kind of more in a mess then we are?
Mette Frederiksen: I think I agree with you that Ireland would be more affected than Denmark will, but if you look at the whole of Europe, then Denmark is actually one of the countries who would be the mostly affected by Brexit.
And of course that ́s also one of the reasons why I ́m against Brexit and I really hope that we will be able to find good solutions. I don ́t consider myself to be in a condition where I can give advices or anything like that to Ireland, but we can work closely together, and we can stand together. Also, when it is tough and hard times for all of us. And I think your visit today is showing how important this relationship is, between our two countries. And of course we are going to work together closely also in the near future.
And that would be the last word. So, thank you all of you for coming here today. Thank you.