Tuesday 22 August 2017

Taoiseach: Spain not likely to push for 'hard exit'

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Picture: REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Picture: REUTERS/Eric Vidal
John Downing

John Downing

The Taoiseach has rejected arguments that the Madrid government wants "the hardest of hard Brexits" to warn Catalonia against breaking with Spain.

Former tánaiste Joan Burton said that Enda Kenny had recently met Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who like the Taoiseach is a member of the EPP Christian Democrat group.

She said it was clear Spain would back a hard-line stance in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, which would not help Ireland getting a special case for the North.

"A hardest of hard Brexits would serve as a warning to regions like Catalonia that if they leave the comfort of Spain as a single country in a federal system, it will be pretty cold outside," the Labour TD said.

But, Mr Kenny said he had a special meeting with Mr Rajoy in Madrid recently and could not see merit in what Ms Bruton was saying. "Mr Rajoy has already said he wants the closest relationship with the UK for very particular reasons," the Taoiseach said.

Mr Kenny said his discussions with Mr Rajoy had focused on the large number of British people currently living in Spain and the large volume of Spanish investments in Britain. He said the case of Catalonia was "an internal matter for Spain" and the status of Gibraltar was an issue to be dealt with directly by Britain and Spain.

Ms Burton said matters like those surrounding Spanish regional problems compounded the issue. It was clear that difficult negotiations lay ahead.

"At the end of the day, there will have to be some very difficult negotiations. We are just not getting any sense of how the Taoiseach is strategically preparing for those negotiations," Ms Burton said.

Mr Kenny said the North's position was governed by the Good Friday Agreement which had international status.

"The situation of the island of Ireland, and the Northern Ireland end of that within the island of Ireland, is unique," the Taoiseach insisted.

Irish Independent

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