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Back to business Leo Varadkar travels to London for trade talks after 'Mighty Hoopla Gate'

Tánaiste Varadkar met a more unlikely party reveller, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, in London for trade talks yesterday

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and British MP Michael Gove yesterday

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and British MP Michael Gove yesterday

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and British MP Michael Gove yesterday

Seeking respite from the 'Mighty Hoopla Gate' backlash, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar met a more unlikely party reveller, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, in London for trade talks yesterday.

Footage of the normally reserved Mr Gove, aged 54, appeared on social media showing him jumping, two-stepping, and gyrating to techno music at a venue in his old home town of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The man who shares responsibility for Brexit negotiations took the floor a week ago during a bank holiday break.

But it was back to business for the pair, as the Tánaiste is wearing his Enterprise Minister hat and is leading a trade mission to UK, France and Germany. Enterprise Ireland's decision to start its first in-person trade mission since Covid-19 in the UK tells its own story as Brexit storm clouds again gather.

The unresolved EU-UK Brexit rows - with Ireland at risk of being squeezed between both - is back on the agenda with London's Brexit minister, David Frost, making a strident speech on Saturday demanding "substantial and significant change" to the EU trade rules on the North.

Mr Frost was speaking to the British-Irish Association in Oxford as the extended deadline for tighter controls on products coming to the North from England, Scotland and Wales, is due to expire on September 30.

But the Tánaiste backed the idea of further extending this deadline to allow for more meaningful negotiations to proceed in a more calm manner.

"We are certainly open to it and we think we need to create some space for further negotiations about how we can make the protocol work," Mr Varadkar told BBC Radio 4.

Brussels officials have privately agreed with the Tánaiste's assertion that here is a "high probability" that grace periods delaying controls between Britain and Northern Ireland will be extended past October.

The Northern Ireland Protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods, preventing border checks in Ireland and protecting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. But this means checks on goods travelling from the Britain to the North in case they are passed on to the Republic, undermining EU single market product standards.

There is already controversy about the current checking regime for certain products, dubbed "a border in the Irish Sea" and anathema to Northern unionists.

Plans to extend these checks to products such as meat and dairy are suspended by the grace periods pending further Brussels-London talks.

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The concern is that if the grace periods expire on October 1 as planned, there might be shortages in the North's shops.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged the problems and pledged to try to influence administrative changes.

The Commission is adamant there can be no re-opening of the North deal.

Brussels is offering to be "flexible" about the protocol's application - but no fundamental re-negotiation.

In his speech, Mr Frost warned of long-term damage to EU-UK relations.

"The stakes are high. The arguments can be bitter," he said.

"I worry this process is capable of generating a sort of cold mistrust between us and the EU."

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