Thursday 17 August 2017

Taoiseach: Brexit is bad for Britain, for Europe and for Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Picture: Tom Burke

Laura Larkin and Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that Brexit is "bad for Britain, for Europe and for Ireland".

Speaking in the Dáil this evening Mr Kenny said fo Brexit: "The Government believes it is bad for Britain, for Europe and for Ireland. It presents challenges to our peace, and challenges to our prosperity."

He told TDs that Ireland will be negotiating "from a position of strength" and that preparation has been underway for two years for negotiations.

The country's best interests will be served by staying in the Union he said but added that Ireland will maintain its close links with Britain.

"These two essential objectives need not in any way be mutually exclusive," he said.

The Fine Gael leader also called for greater clarity from the British Government on how this close relationship will be achieved.

Mr Kenny said the recent decision of EU leaders to afford Ireland a special status in the upcoming negotiations was a "major endorsement" of the Government's position and "was by no means a given" prior to the decision being made. 

Speaking about the economic impact of Brexit Mr Kenny acknowledged that the UK remains one of our most significant trading partners.

"It became very clear early in the Government’s analysis of Brexit that the economic impacts of Brexit would be deep and extensive across the economy and society as a whole. Therefore our work has prioritised analysis and engagement on sectoral issues and how we can best manage the impact on the people, the businesses and the communities of Ireland," Mr Kenny said.

The key sectors impacted include agri-food and tourism he said.

"The great bulk of these issues will not be addressed in the initial withdrawal agreement, but in the subsequent EU-UK future relationship agreement or agreements," he said.

"Given that the EU’s initial negotiating position is now clear, the Government will intensify its focus on the economic implications of Brexit, including on domestic policy measures to reinforce the competitiveness of the Irish economy, to protect it from potential negative impacts of Brexit, and to pursue all possible opportunities that might arise."

Mr Kenny urged people to remain "calm, clear-eyed and strategic" and mindful that the process will be protracted.

The Government is well prepared he added.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed that the government is playing “catch-up” on Brexit.

He argued in the Dáil that there was no evidence of the government seriously engaging with Brexit until after the referendum.

Mr Martin warned that that core strengths Ireland has built up over decades won’t be enough to avoid dramatic economic disruption.

And he said the government needs to move from general statements to specific proposals adding: “Too much time has already been wasted”.

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