The White House, Washington DC.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington DC
Further to today’s St Patrick’s Day meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US Prresident Donald Trump, which touched on Brexit, the chances of a trip to Ireland and the appointment of an American peace envoy for Northern Ireland…
…a transcript of proceedings kindly provided by the press pool at the White House.
President Donald Trump: “Well, thank you very much. It’s a great honour to have the Prime Minister of Ireland. We’ve become fast friends. We’ve had some very, very good transactions taking place on trade and other things.
As you know, he’s in a very complicated position right now because of Brexit. You’re going to have to tell me what’s happening. You’re going to have to, perhaps, tell the world what’s happening because I’m not sure anybody knows.
But very, very special country. So many friends. And you’re doing a great job. Very popular man doing a wonderful job. The people love him, and that’s very important. And thank you very much for being with us. Thank you, Leo.”
Varadkar: “Mr. President, just wanted to say thanks very much for meeting us again. It’s an enormous privilege for Ireland, as a small country, to have this annual meeting on account of St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s a chance to make even closer and tighter the bonds between the U.S. and Ireland.
I particularly want to thank you for your help with Aughinish…”
VARADKAR: “with the plans in the west of Ireland where hundreds of jobs were threatened as a result of the Russian sanctions. And with the help of the administration, we were able to save those jobs.”
TRUMP: “That’s right.”
VARADKAR: “So, thank you very much for that.”
TRUMP: “They don’t — they don’t know about that.”
VARADKAR: (Laughs.) “They do now.”
TRUMP: “They don’t know about what I do for other people.”
VARADKAR: “And I look forward to talking to you later about Brexit, giving you our perspective on it and the real importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the really hard-won peace in Northern Ireland.
And I look forward to talking to you a little bit about immigration, as well, and also about trade and how much I would like to see a trade deal done between the U.S. and the EU. We’ve done one with Japan. We’ve done one with Canada. And we’d love to strike a deal with the U.S., too.”
TRUMP: “Okay, well, we’ll see. Because the EU, as you know, has been very tough to deal with, and frankly, they’ve been — it’s been very one-sided for many, many years. And so we’re changing that around, and we’re starting to maybe get somewhere. And if we don’t, we’ll win anyway. But I do appreciate your saying that. And again, it’s a great honor to have you. Fantastic country.”
Q Mr. President, do you support Ireland’s position on Brexit?
TRUMP: “I’m not going to comment on Brexit. I can tell you it’s a very complex thing that’s going on right now. It’s tearing a country apart. It’s actually tearing a lot of countries apart. And it’s a shame that it has to be that way. But I think we will stay right in our lane.
We’re doing fantastically as a country. Our economy is booming. We’re the envy of the world. Other economies are not doing well and we’re doing record business, so we’re very happy about that. And it’s really great to have the Prime Minister of Ireland with us.”
Q Are you going to visit Ireland this year?
TRUMP: “I will. I’ll be coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time and I would have loved to have been there. And it’s a special place. And I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that. And it’s just a great place. Really, a great place.”
Q Mr. President, yesterday you made your decision about the Boeing planes. How long do you think that they will be grounded and —
TRUMP: “Oh, I hope it’s going to be for a short period of time, and I hope it’s — look, they have to find out what it is. The biggest thing is they have to find out what it is. I’m not sure that they know. But I thought we had to do it. We had to take a cautionary route. The grounding of the planes yesterday was a big thing, as you know. And you’re involved with Boeing also.”
VARADKAR: “Yeah. We’ve done the same. Yeah.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The grounding was a big thing. And it’s a great company. It’s a truly great company. And hopefully they’ll figure it out very quickly.
It was a big decision. It’s also one of our largest exporters, one of our — you know, truly — one of the truly great companies of the world. They have to figure it out fast. They know that. They’re under great pressure.”
Q Mr. President, you were a great supporter of Brexit initially. Are you still a great supporter of Brexit given how things are playing out?
TRUMP: “Well, I was. It wasn’t that I was a supporter. I predicted it was going to happen, and I was right. And people laughed when I predicted it, and they won by about two points. And I was standing out on Turnberry, and we had a press conference, and people were screaming. That was the day before, if you remember. I think you were there. And people were screaming, and I said, “No, I think it’s going to happen.”
And people were surprised I made the prediction because President Obama made the opposite prediction. And I was right. And I will tell you, I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation.
But I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it. And I think you would’ve been successful. She didn’t listen to that, and that’s fine. I mean, she’s got to do what she’s got to do. But I think it could’ve been negotiated in a different manner, frankly. I hate to see it being — everything being ripped apart right now. I don’t think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to the people that won. They’d say, “What do you mean you’re going to take another vote?” So that would be tough.
But I thought it would happen. It did happen. And both sides are very, very — you know, they’re cemented in. It’s a tough situation. It’s a shame. Frankly, it’s a shame. There was no reason for that to happen. They could’ve had the vote, and it should’ve gone smoothly. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It’s a very complicated issue. And actually, the issue on the border of Ireland is one of the most complex points.”
Q Do you think it should be extended to get more time to get a deal?
TRUMP: “Well, I think they’re going to probably have to do something because right now they’re in the midst of a very short period of time, the end of the month. And they’re not going to be able to do that. So it’s going be (inaudible.)
But I’d like to see — I would like to see —
TRUMP: Excuse me. I’d like to see that whole situation with Brexit work out. I’d like to see — so, you know, we’re talking to them about trade. And we can do a very big trade deal with the UK. We’re also renegotiating our trade deal with the European groups and, you know, literally, individual nations, and also with the whole.
But it’s very sad to see what’s happening there. And there was no reason — and I’m sure — Leo, I’m sure you agree with that. Do you have any feeling on — would you like to express your feelings on Brexit?
VARADKAR: “Yeah, well…”
TRUMP: “Maybe I should not let you do it. I’ll just get you in trouble.” (Laughter.)
VARADKAR: “Yeah, well, we have a different opinion, President. I regret that Brexit is happening. And the UK was a really important part of the European Union. But they’re going now, and that’s their decision. But the most important thing for us in Ireland is that their decision to leave shouldn’t cause any problems in Northern Ireland, where people actually voted to stay, and that we shouldn’t have a hard border or anything to disrupt the peace process. And also, we want to make sure that we still have frictionless trade between Britain and Ireland, because I believe in free trade.
And I think it will be a few years until the United Kingdom sorts itself out, but in the meantime, the European Union is available to talk trade with the U.S.”
TRUMP: “Right. And we’re talking about trade with the European Union. They’ve been very, very tough over the years. They were unwilling to negotiate with the Obama administration, and they were unwilling before that, to be honest. I’m not just blaming President Obama.
But they’re willing to talk to us. And if they don’t talk to us, we’re going to do something that’s going to be pretty severe, economically. We’re going to tariff a lot of their products coming in. Because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly, I have to say that. Very, very. They treat the United States — and they have been for many years — for decades, they’ve treated us very unfairly.
So it will probably work out. They’re negotiating. They want to see if they can get — otherwise, we’re going to do something that’s going to be good for the United States.”
Q What advice did you give Theresa May that she didn’t take?
Q What advice did you give the British Prime Minister that she didn’t take?
TRUMP: “Well, I just told her what I would do and how I would do it. But she has her own way of doing it. She is — she’s got her own way of doing it. That’s okay.
Thank you, everybody.”
Q Would you appoint a peace envoy, Mr. President — a peace envoy for Northern Ireland?
TRUMP: “We may very well be doing that.”
Q You may very well be doing what?
Q What was that last question?
TRUMP: “No, you wouldn’t be interested. You’re Irish.”
Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Varadkar of Ireland Before Bilateral Meeting (The White House)
Earlier: Trump L’eoil
Pic via The White House