Brexit will define and consume the United Kingdom for the next generation, says Irish Premier Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at the Fine Gael conference in Co Wexford on Saturday, Mr Varadkar hailed the work of his cabinet and colleagues, as well as their European counterparts.

“The last two-and-a-half years – the last two-and-a-half months – even the last two-and-a-half days – have seen many twists and turns in the Brexit saga,” he said.

“Throughout all of it, we have stayed firm. We have held our nerve and we have stayed the course.

“I feel that I have learned something from Brexit, about leadership, and about the things that are necessary for success in politics.

“Brexit will define and consume the United Kingdom for the next generation. It doesn’t have to define us.

“We are in control of our destiny, and have the power to build a better future for all of our citizens.”

He added: “We can be optimistic about the future.

“Full employment, incomes up, taxes down, emigrants coming home, the public finances back in order, poverty and deprivation falling, and our international reputation restored.

“Demonstrated by the support we have received in the Brexit negotiations.”

Mr Varadkar went on to commend Fine Gael’s membership of the EPP, which he called “the most powerful force in European politics”, and says the relationship has been advantageous for Ireland.

Fine Gael National Conference
Leo Varadkar with European Parliament election candidates, Frances Fitzgerald, Sean Kelly and Maria Walsh at the conference (Patrick Browne/Fine Gael/PA)

“Michel Barnier, Jean Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Phil Hogan, Angela Merkel aren’t European officials, they’re our party colleagues.,” he said.

“And that’s why it’s so important for Ireland that we have a strong Fine Gael team elected to the European Parliament on the 24th May.

“Delegates, Brexit brings home to all of us the importance of having the right team in place.

“A team you can trust. A team with the ideas and a team with the vision to do what is best for Ireland and for all our people.”

The speech also included Mr Varadkar’s vision for Ireland after Brexit, and took aim at his political opponents.

Article 50 extension: key dates
(PA Graphics)

He described Fianna Fail, who prop up Mr Varadkar’s minority government with a confidence and supply agreement as a party with “no ideas, no policies, no alternatives”.

The Taoiseach went on to hit out at Sinn Fein, who he described as “a party with plenty of ideas and policies – bad ones”.

“Higher taxes, more borrowing, more debt, but the bigger problem I have is that the values of Sinn Fein are toxic.”

He told delegates that under no circumstances would Fine Gael enter Government with Sinn Fein.