Gloating Varadkar praises Barnier as ‘honorary Irishman’ for fighting against UK in Brexit

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Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Tánaiste (deputy prime minister), praised the EU chief on Twitter for winning the award, which gave a nod to Michel Barnier’s key role in the Brexit negotiations. He even joked Mr Barnier was an “honorary Irishman”.

Mr Varadkar wrote on Twitter: “Well deserved accolade.

“A great Frenchman, European and honorary Irishman!”

The Irish politician’s praise comes after Mr Barnier was named as this year’s European Of the Year at European Movement Ireland’s AGM last night.

The award recognises individuals who have “made outstanding contributions to developing the connections and relationship between Ireland and Europe”.

Mr Barnier was praised for his “tireless work” in the current post-Brexit trade negotiations with the UK.

Noelle O Connell, CEO of European Movement Ireland, said: “EM Ireland is delighted to bestow its highest honour, our European of the Year award, to the EU’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the UK, Mr Michel Barnier.

“In EM Ireland, we work to develop connections between Ireland and our neighbours across Europe.

“Promoting this greater engagement amongst the countries of Europe is something that Mr Barnier has pursued with distinction throughout his career, not least in his current role as the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator with its many challenges.

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“Despite this, he has never wavered from his commitment to safeguarding, protecting and upholding the integrity and values of the European Union…

“Michel Barnier has gained the trust and respect of people across Ireland through his tireless work to achieve the best possible outcome of the challenges posed by Brexit.”

Mr Barnier will be presented with the award at a later date in line with COVID-19 guidelines.

Chairman of European Movement Ireland, Maurice Pratt, said: “In recognition, and paying tribute to his work over many years on the Brexit negotiations, and for the strong support, solidarity and understanding he has shown during his tenure in acknowledging the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland.”

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European Movement Ireland was founded in 1954 and is an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to develop the connection between Ireland and the EU.

Mr Barnier visited London on Wednesday in attempt to break the deadlock over a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

The meeting preceded next week’s formal negotiation round.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have always stressed that we believe a deal is possible and we will continue to work hard on securing a deal.”

Earlier this week Mr Varadkar urged businesses to brace for Brexit, which is less than 100 days away.

In a statement, the Tánaiste warned that there will be inevitable changes businesses must be ready to deal with.

He said: “From the start of next year, customs declarations will need to be completed if businesses intend to continue trading with the UK, whether that is importing or exporting goods to the UK or using the UK as a landbridge to move their goods to or from mainland Europe.”

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