Liam McBurney / Pool via Reuters
- Moments after arriving in Ireland on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump likened the post-Brexit Irish border to the US border with Mexico.
- Trump said: "I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well here."
- Irish premier Leo Varadkar was forced to point out that while Trump is trying to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, the primary concern on the Irish border is ensuring that no new checks emerge after Brexit.
- Ireland was the latest stop in Trump’s European visit, following a UK state visit where he met Queen Elizabeth II.
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LONDON — US President Donald Trump kicked of his visit to Ireland with a serious gaffe after comparing its post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland to that of the US-Mexico border, along which he is trying to build a permanent wall.
Trump appeared unaware of the details of Ireland’s fragile border situation as he spoke alongside Irish premier Leo Varadkar.
"I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border," he said at a joint press conference in Shannon.
"I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well here."
After a momentary pause, Varadkar interrupted to point out that the "main thing" Ireland wanted to avoid was a border or wall between the two countries.
Trump replied: "I think you do, I think you do. The way it works now is good, you want to try and keep it that way. I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit. I’m sure it’s going to work out very well. I know they’re focused very heavily on it."
Watch Varadkar interrupt Trump on the border wall
Border arrangements after Brexit have been one of the main sticking points in negotiations since the EU referendum and 2016 and the so-called "backstop" — an insurance plan designed to avoid any new checks — is the primary reason that parliament has rejected Theresa May’s exit plan three times.
On Tuesday, Trump had met with Brexit-supporting politicians Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith, and Owen Paterson, all of whom believe that potential problems with the Irish border after Brexit have been overstated.
Speaking about the border, the president said: "There are a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it and it’s going to be just fine. It ultimately could even be very, very good for Ireland. The border will work out."
In a press conference after the televised meeting, Varadkar — who has repeatedly warned that new border checks would threaten peace and prosperity — said he believed that Trump agreed with the need to avoid a post-Brexit border.
"He understands that has to be a shared objective," he said.
He said he had discussed the different nature of the two border debates and had explained details of the border that operated during the Troubles.
"I explained … that everyone in Ireland – north and south, unionist and nationalist – want to avoid a return to a hard border, but that Brexit is a threat in that regard and an unintended consequence that we can’t allow," Varadkar said.
Ireland was the latest stop in Trump’s European visit, following a UK state visit where he met Queen Elizabeth II.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump had joined world leaders in Portsmouth, England, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
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