"We'll say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure" - Leo Varadkar bids farewell to Britain on Brexit Day 8 months ago

"We'll say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure" - Leo Varadkar bids farewell to Britain on Brexit Day

"We hope it works out for them. But if it does not, there will always be a seat kept for them at the table."

Remember, remember, the 31st of January, 2020.

A day that shall live in infamy. Brexit Day.

At 11pm on Friday, Britain will officially leave the European Union following years of political debates, endless posturing and a December general election that saw UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson soundly thrash opposition rival Jeremy Corbyn to obtain a Conservative majority.

As such, the promise of Brexit is about to be realised.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among those waving goodbye to the UK, lamenting the loss of "an old friend embarking on an adventure".

"Tonight, when the clock strikes 11 pm, the UK will leave the European Union," Varadkar began in a speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin on Friday morning.

"We'll say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure. We hope it works out for them. But if it does not, there will always be a seat kept for them at the table. I am ambitious about the future EU/UK relationship but I also think we think to be realistic about the dangers.

"We need to start a new relationship between the EU and the UK on a firm and honest footing. And that means a level playing field."

Varadkar went on to highlight the need for "common minimum standards" on workers' rights, health and safety, the environment, animal welfare and state aid, as well as produce and food standards.

"Today is a bittersweet day for all of us who believe in the idea of Europe," he continued.

"Our sadness, however, is tempered by what we have seen over the past three years. Although Europe was tested it did not break, but came through it stronger and more united than ever.

"Today we are grateful to the European member states for their solidarity and support during the recent Brexit negotiations. It is proof of why small countries benefit from membership of the EU."

In closing, the Taoiseach expressed his "profound" regret at Britain leaving the European Union, adding that he "absolutely" respects its decision to do so.

"I’m certain, that both Ireland and the EU more broadly - will continue to have an abiding friendship with the UK, a real partnership in terms of politics, security and the economics.

"I look forward with confidence to the future of Ireland and the EU after Brexit," Varadkar continued.

"I do not underestimate the challenges and risks but believe we can meet that working with our European partners we can build an ever closer, safer, prosperous and sustainable future for us all."