As the UK and Europe enter a confusing final stage of negotiations surrounding Brexit – the UK’s decision to leave the European Union – one of the key figures in the negotiations is Leo Varadkar.
Varadkar is the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland – it’s elected head of government.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the life and career of Leo Varadkar, and explain why he’s a key player in the Brexit negotiations.
Born in Dublin in 1979, Leo Varadkar’s mother was a nurse. His father was a doctor who had moved to Dublin from Mumbai, and the family retained strong connections with India.
Studying medicine at Trinity College in Dublin, Varadkar was active in student politics, taking official roles in the European People’s Party.
Following graduation, Varadkar worked as General Practitioner.
Varadkar was elected to the lower house of the Irish parliament in 2007. He was immediately appointed to the front-bench of the government, and subsequently held a number of portfolios and ministerial responsibilities.
In 2017, Varadkar was elected as the head of the political party Fine Gael, and was able to secure enough support in the parliament to be appointed Taoiseach.
In early 2015, during a media interview, Varadkar spoke publicly for the first time about being gay. Later that year, Ireland held a referendum on the question of marriage equality – Varadkar was one of the prominent advocates for marriage equality. Varadkar’s partner is Matthew Barrett.
As a member of the European Union, Ireland has been a key player throughout the lengthy negotiations regarding the exit of the UK. The UK government has negotiated an exit agreement with the EU, however the UK government is struggling to get this agreement approved by the UK parliament. The key sticking point appears to be border arrangements between the UK and Ireland.
In the agreement that has been negotiated, both sides have committed to avoiding a ‘hard’ border – meaning that there should be no physical checks for movement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. To achieve this, the agreement includes a ‘Backstop’ provision – a position of last-resort to maintain an open border should a wider customs agreement not be agreed between the UK and the EU. The concern being raised within the UK parliament is that this Backstop could effectively prevent the UK from leaving the EU.
The UK government is currently trying to seek some sort of legally binding reassurance from the EU that will secure the current agreement sufficient support from the UK parliament, however it appears that Leo Varadkar and his fellow Europeans are playing hardball. We can expect to hear a lot more from Leo Varadkar in the weeks and months ahead.