Ireland

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President

Taoiseach

Michael D. Higgins (Independent, since November 2011)

Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael, since June 2017)

Population 4,904,226 (2019)
Size 84,421 km2 (32,595 sq. miles)
MEPs 13 (joined the EU in 1973)
Next presidential election

Next legislative election

2025

8 February 2020

Presidency of the Council July – December 2026
Last meeting with Boris Johnson 24 September 2019
Brexit priorities The Republic of Ireland will become the EU’s only land border with the UK, so the government’s main priority is to keep this border with Northern Ireland as open and barrier-free as possible, both for travel and trade. Up to 1 million people cross the border every month.

Ireland has also asked the EU to include in its negotiation strategy a guarantee that Northern Ireland should easily be able to join the EU if it democratically decides it wants to join. The majority of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

One of the country’s other main priorities will also be to safeguard the peace process between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Despite the close relationship between Ireland and the UK, Irish officials have been clear in stating it will fully support the EU-side throughout the Brexit negotiations.

What Mr Varadkar said on Brexit “While there will be a political border between our two countries, there should not be an economic one and any border that does exist should be invisible.”

“The level of uncertainty as to the outcome of the negotiations remains very high, and it’s clear that Brexit is a fundamental economic risk for Ireland if it results in a permanent change to the rules of trade between our two countries”

“Saying there will be no physical infrastructure [at the Ireland-U.K. border] is a very strong statement. The way I believe you can best achieve that is for the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, to stay in some form of the customs union and some form of single market with the European Union.”

“It’s causing enormous difficulties for the whole of Europe and Ireland in particular and to me it seems that after 40 years of marriage, most of them good, Britain wants a divorce and wants an open relationship that day after.”

Ireland’s priorities The Irish government’s priorities are to build 25,000 new homes, create 200,000 jobs and reform the budget to allocate €6.75 billion more to public services.

The government has announced it wishes to hold seven referendums over the next two years. The first was on the country’s restrictive abortion laws in 2018. Other referendums will regard direct elections of the mayor, extending voting rights, reducing the voting age, the role of women at home, divorce and removing blasphemy as an offence.

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