Four days after becoming the new prime minister, Boris Johnson has yet to make a phone call to his Irish counterpart.
Leo Varadkar appears to have been pushed back in the queue, with no arrangements yet in place for the conventional call that takes place when new leaders assume office in Ireland and the UK.
Johnson has already spoken to five national leaders around the world, including US President Donald Trump, who was always going to be a priority given the two leaders’ support for one another.
Trump has heaped praise on Johnson and said he talked about doing a trade deal “five times” the size of the existing business with the UK.
Johnson also fitted in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss a Brexit transition, and in his first two days of office he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
The lack of contact with the taoiseach will add to the existing strains in Anglo-Irish relations since Johnson assumed power with new tensions over remarks on the risks to Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.
Varadkar said on Friday evening that “more and more people in Northern Ireland will come to question the union” if the UK crashed out of the EU, putting the region, which voted to remain, into a new historical chapter with the rest of the island of Ireland.
“People who you might describe as moderate nationalists, or moderate Catholics, who are more or less happy with the status-quo will look towards a united Ireland.
“And I think increasingly you see liberal Protestants and unionists who will start to ask where they feel more at home,” he said at a summer school in Donegal.
“One of the things that ironically could really undermine the union of the UK is a hard Brexit, both for Northern Ireland and for Scotland, and that is a problem they are going to have to face,” Varadkar said.
His remarks earned a sharp rebuke from the Democratic Unionist party MP Ian Paisley, who said his intervention was “unhelpful and aggressive”.
Varadkar also said on Friday that he would need to meet Johnson to understand his “real red lines” on Brexit, and that Ireland had shown in the past that it could be flexible.
Johnson has already spoken to other leaders in the United Kingdom, including Scottish and Northern Irish party leaders – Nicola Sturgeon,
Arlene Foster, and Michelle O’Neill, head of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.
On Friday, Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney described Johnson’s comments as “unhelpful” and appeared to be putting the UK on a “collision course” with the EU.
He made his remarks after, what he described as a “useful” meeting with Julian Smith, the new Northern Ireland secretary who went to Belfast for a series of meetings aimed at getting the Stormont assembly up and running again.