Brexit has put future of UK in doubt, says Kenny
Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30
Britain's vote to leave the EU has left doubts about the future existence of the United Kingdom, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told an audience in England.
During a debate in Oxford last night, Mr Kenny was asked directly if he believed the Brexit vote last June "would lead to the break-up of the UK?"
Mr Kenny said there was a lot of confusion - but he referred to the prospect of another independence referendum in Scotland.
"There is a great sense of confusion about where it is all headed.
"It's a matter not for me but for the different electorates in the United Kingdom in any event. Clearly, there are comments about further votes in Scotland," Mr Kenny said.
"Nobody can answer that question now," he added later.
The Taoiseach was addressing the conference of the British-Irish Association whose members gathered to consider the fall-out from the June 23 Brexit vote for Britain to quit the European Union.
In a wide-ranging address, Mr Kenny said he believed EU peace grants, which have contributed €1.5bn since 1995 to underpin the North's fragile peace, should continue.
Despite open rebukes last July from Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, he again insisted any new EU-UK arrangements had to factor in the long-term possibility of a United Ireland by consent.
In such a case, the North should be absorbed into the EU like the former East Germany was in 1990.
Mr Kenny also returned to the idea of some sort of all-Ireland mechanism for groups from both North and South to discuss the Brexit implications. This again provoked negative reaction from Ms Foster when first floated last July as an "all-island forum."
This time, the Taoiseach avoided the term "forum" but stressed that all the governments in Britain and Ireland were now committed to this kind of dialogue.
"My Government strongly believes that there is a need for the widest possible conversation on the implications of the referendum result in Ireland, both North and South. It is an all-island issue," he said.
Mr Kenny said the prospect of majority consent for a United Ireland was a long way off.
But it could not be discounted in framing new arrangements between the EU and the UK.
The Taoiseach said he was happy the core relationship between Britain and Ireland was strong as detailed Brexit negotiations approached.
But these would fundamentally recalibrate a whole new set of relationships.
"We will have a new set of relationships within the UK, between Britain and Ireland, between North and South on the island of Ireland, and between Britain and a 27-member EU which includes Ireland," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach said he would be the only leader from any of the islands of Britain and Ireland at an EU summit in Bratislava next Friday.
This was a first in 43 years and framing a new EU-UK relationship will be hard, he said.