Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that at a time when some of the world is looking inwards, Ireland is looking out, hinting at Brexit and American foreign policy.
The Taoiseach was launching a Global Schools programme at Dublin’s Ringsend College when he was asked about Brexit.
“Rather than seeing ourselves as an island, and turning our back on the world – and a lot of people now are looking inwards, you see it a lot in eastern Europe, you see it America, they’re looking inwards, they don’t want outsiders, they don’t want visitors, they don’t want migrants coming to their country – and we see Ireland very differently, we see ourselves as a country at the heart of the European Union,” he said.
Mr Varadkar explained to the college pupils the benefits of free movement within the EU, telling them of the career and educational opportunities without visa hindrance or paperwork.
Asked by one student why UN membership was important during Brexit, Mr Varadkar added that strong relationships with other nations would help Ireland post-Brexit.
“Because the UK are leaving the EU, our relationships are going to change and we need to make sure we keep a close relationship with them as our nearest neighbour.
“Now they’re leaving the EU, it’s going to be a different place, France and Germany are going to have more influence, which can sometimes be good and sometimes be bad, and we need to be making closer relationships with them too, and the smaller countries in the EU, which are very like Ireland.
“We need to make relationships with other countries in the world, because if we find we can’t trade with the UK as much as we used to, and can’t sell to them some of the products we make, we need to be able to sell them to other places, like China, for instance.
“China used to be a very poor country and now it’s very wealthy.”
The Global Schools programme is an element of Global Ireland, the Government’s policy to double Ireland’s impact in the world by 2025.
Global Ireland has been dubbed “the most ambitious renewal and expansion of Ireland’s international presence ever undertaken” by an Irish government.
British ministers have agreed to make no-deal Brexit planning “an operational priority” amid continued opposition to Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft agreement.
Mr Varadkar’s deputy, Simon Coveney, said on Tuesday that he would bring a dossier to the Irish Cabinet with a contingency plan on various Brexit outcomes.
“Of course we have to prepare for (a no-deal Brexit),” the Tanaiste told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland.
“That is the other side of the story.”