Thursday 21 September 2017

Kenny stresses concerns as UK to set out plan for 'hard' Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to Ms May by phone last night. Photo: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to Ms May by phone last night. Photo: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Peter Dominiczak and Cormac McQuinn

British Prime Minister Theresa May will today announce a 12-point plan for a 'hard Brexit' that will see the UK leave the EU-single market and customs union.

In a major speech she will pledge that Britain will not have "partial" membership of the EU "that leaves us half-in, half-out". She will also make control of the UK's borders a central theme of her Brexit strategy.

It's feared that a 'hard' Brexit will have serious implications for the Border with Northern Ireland.

Withdrawing from the customs union also raises the spectre of tariffs potentially being imposed on Irish exporters.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to Mrs May by phone last night.

The pair discussed the looming elections in Northern Ireland but Mrs May also took the opportunity to discuss her speech with Mr Kenny.

A Government statement said: "The Taoiseach reiterated key concerns for Ireland, covering the economic and trading relationship, the common travel area, and the Northern Ireland Peace Process including border issues."

Speaking earlier in Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan signalled that the Irish Government has been planning for the prospect of a 'hard' Brexit.

He added: "We have our preparatory work done. Our priorities are clear. There is a specific and unique circumstance on the island of Ireland that needs to be borne in mind. I've been at pains to explain that fully to my EU colleagues."

Read more: EU not opposed to open Border with the North, Revenue says

He also said the instability in Northern Ireland means Brexit negotiations "are all the greater in terms of importance".

Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien warned 'hard' Brexit will "pose serious challenges for Ireland" in relation to the Border and the Good Friday Agreement.

"It furthermore reinforces the need for our Government to get in the game here and to be proactive," he said.

In her speech in London's Lancaster House today, Mrs May will say: "We seek a new and equal partnership - between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU."

"Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave," she will add.

Mrs May has pledged to trigger Article 50, which begins formal Brexit negotiations with Brussels, by the end of March.

As well as leaving the single market and customs union, the 12 objectives of the British plan are understood to include gaining control of Britain's borders, taking the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European courts, preserving the Union, maintaining workers' rights and signing major free-trade deals.

On the customs union, Mrs May will suggest that there could be scope for negotiating access for some sectors - such as the automotive industry - after Brexit.

However, it will be clear from her words that while the Brexit negotiation may include discussions about some form of access, Britain is leaving the customs union.

Although she will not set out her plans for Britain's post-Brexit immigration system, it is understood that she favours a work permit system, meaning EU migrants will only be able to come to the UK to live or work if they have a firm job offer.

Irish Independent

Also in Business