SHANNON, IRELAND – Donald Trump, arriving in Ireland for the first time as U.S. president on Wednesday, sought to reassure the country that Britain’s exit from the European Union would work out fine for its near neighbor.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar planned to use a meeting with Trump, who has been a vocal supporter of Brexit, to underline Ireland’s concerns over the departure, his deputy said.
How to keep EU-member Ireland’s 500-km (350-mile) border with Northern Ireland open after Brexit and ensure it does not jeopardize two decades of peace in the British province is proving the most intractable issue in Britain’s tortuous efforts to leave the EU.
Before meeting Varadkar, Trump said he expected the prime minister would ask him about Brexit and it would all work out “very well.
“The way it (the border) works now is good, you want to try and keep it that way and I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit. I’m sure it’s going to work out well,” Trump told reporters.
Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told national broadcaster RTE earlier: “I think the focus of the discussion between the taoiseach (prime minister) and President Trump today will be on the impact of Brexit on Ireland. This U.S. administration and previous ones have consistently been supportive of the Irish peace process.”
“It’s a big deal when a U.S. president comes to Ireland. The relationship between Ireland and the U.S. remains strong, even though we disagree on many policy areas with the current administration,” Coveney added, including Trump’s “blunt” views in favor of Brexit among those areas.
Trump said in his remarks that the two countries had a great relationship, “as good as it’s been.
Varadkar had opposed extending an invitation to Trump as a cabinet minister before changing his mind when he took over as prime minister in 2017.
Trump’s meeting with the prime minister is part of a trip that will also include a stop-off at one of the president’s golf resorts.
As in Britain where Trump began his European trip this week, there were expected to be some protests by anti-war and environmental demonstrators, but also a warm welcome in the tiny western village of Doonbeg where the hotel he bought five years ago supports local employment.
Trump, who took part on Wednesday in events in southern England marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, will base himself at the luxury hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean for two nights.
He will make a day trip from the hotel to France on Thursday for a D-Day commemoration there, before taking in a round of golf and returning to Washington on Friday.