A hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will “never, ever” come back because of Brexit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
Von der Leyen, who was visiting Dublin, said the European Union withdrawal agreement reached with the U.K. “makes sure” of that.
“We now expect the withdrawal protocol to be implemented in full, and we will invest in ensuring that,” she was quoted as saying by local Irish media, including the Irish Times.
She said the Brexit debate magnified Ireland’s national sovereignty.
“We have shown that for us, for Europeans, all member states are equal,” she said, adding they stand together when the vital interests of one are threatened.
Speaking at a dinner with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and other Irish politicians, von der Leyen reiterated that the partnership between the U.K. and the bloc could not be as close as it was before.
“Today, Ireland is a strong and confident country with the fastest-growing economy in the EU and more people at work than ever before…And all this in spite of the specter of Brexit,” she said.
Also speaking at the dinner, Varadkar said his country would always be grateful for the solidarity shown by the European Commission, European institutions and other EU member states over Brexit.
He said past generations knew why European unity was a good idea, as it defeated communism and helped peace.
“But for younger people today, the horrors of world war and the evils of fascism and communism are not in their memory, and for them, Europe needs a new project, a new raison d’etre.”
He said the next step is reaching a trade deal with the U.K.
“Getting that agreement is crucial for businesses, for jobs, for exporters, and also for the agriculture sector as well. Because whatever problems we face at the moment in our beef industry, they would be much worse if our beef farmers and our meat industry doesn’t have access to that British market in 2021.”
The U.K. is set to leave the EU on Jan. 31, and a transition period – during which all arrangements between the U.K. and the bloc will remain the same – will kick in and be effective until the end of the year.
The U.K. decided to leave the bloc in a June 2016 referendum.