Trudeau meets with Irish PM, to have audience with Queen ahead of G20 summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived Monday afternoon in Europe, where he has scheduled friendly courtesy calls with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and the Queen ahead of what is expected to be a raucous G20 summit in Germany.

Trudeau could have role as 'honest broker' as Dublin, London and Brussels figure out Brexit, says one analyst

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, will meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, left, in Dublin Tuesday before a private audience with the Queen in Scotland Wednesday, his second as prime minister. (Associated Press/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived Monday afternoon in Europe, where he has scheduled a couple of friendly courtesy calls ahead of what is expected to be a raucous G20 summit in Germany.

Trudeau and his family are first headed to Dublin for a meeting with Ireland's new taoiseach (prime minister), Leo Varadkar.

The Canada-EU free trade deal, which has yet to be implemented and is still subject to a ratification vote in Ireland, will be on the agenda. 

But Toronto trade lawyer Mark Warner said there isn't all that much to talk about at this late stage.

"I don't imagine that anything Prime Minister Trudeau says is going to manage to make the Irish prime minister, you know, go off on a plane to Brussels and demand that the European Union hurry up and implement CETA," he told CBC News.

'Ireland in a lot of ways will be collateral damage of Brexit, because Ireland is a liberal country, it's close to the U.K., but it'll remain in the EU'- Frédéric Mérand, Université de Montréal.

"We actually have a massive trade deficit with Ireland," Warner said, mainly in pharmaceutical goods and whisky.

In an announcement from his office about the visit, Trudeau said Canada and Ireland have a strong relationship "based on shared cultural heritage and strong family ties."

But the official visit comes at a crucial time for Ireland, which continues to grapple with Britain's decision to leave the European Union. 

Trudeau, along with his son Hadrien and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, are seen boarding the plane for Dublin, in Ottawa on Monday morning. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

"Ireland in a lot of ways will be collateral damage of Brexit, because Ireland is a liberal country, it's close to the U.K., but it'll remain in the EU, so there's the major challenge of dealing with the border," said Frédéric Mérand, political science professor at Université de Montréal.

And he said there could be a role for Trudeau, should he wish to take it on. 

Dublin, Brussels, London may need honest broker

"He can play the role of an honest broker at a time when there is a growing mistrust between London and Brussels, but also between Dublin and Northern Ireland," suggested Mérand.

On Wednesday, Trudeau will travel to Edinburgh for a private audience with Queen Elizabeth at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The meeting follows last week's visit to Canada by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and will be Trudeau's second audience with the Queen as prime minister.

"With this year marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I look forward to thanking her personally for her dedication to our country, and for carrying out her duties with such grace and strength," Trudeau said in a statement.

The main event though is the G20 summit in Hamburg, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel has set an ambitious agenda for her colleagues.

Climate change, refugees and free trade are among the most prickly topics for the leaders, but preparing for future pandemics, gender parity and development aid for Africa are also up for discussion.

Sideshows may overshadow G20

"Canada is coming to this summit having just recently launched its new feminist foreign policy focused on multilateralism and supporting global agendas," said Shaughn McArthur of CARE Canada.

"It's been a concern across Canadian civil society that the government has launched a new feminist international assistance policy without any money," he added.

Relations between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, centre, and U.S. President Donald Trump, right, will be one of the stories to watch at this week's G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

But given that Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to have their first face-to-face meeting in Germany, in addition to what is shaping up to be a Merkel-Trump showdown over the Paris Agreement on climate change, the sideshows could overshadow the official agenda.

"All international summits come with grand ambitions. You have countries that are hosting these events that want to put their mark on the global agenda and of course they are superseded by news events," McArthur said.

Trudeaus arrive in Dublin

Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and son Hadrien arrived in Dublin shortly after 4 p.m. ET, greeted by Kevin Vickers, Canada's ambassador to Ireland, Jim Kelly, Ireland's ambassador to Canada, and other officials.


Alison Crawford is a senior reporter in CBC's parliamentary bureau, covering justice, public safety, the Supreme Court and Liberal Party of Canada.


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