Saturday 1 October 2016

Why Ireland is demanding package from EU to beat Brexit fallout

* EU leaders meet in Brussels today
* Taoiseach to make Ireland a 'special case'
* 'Political earthquake' - Taoiseach

Published 28/06/2016 | 02:30

Risks to economic recovery and the Northern Ireland peace process will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s trump cards when he seeks to make us a ‘special case’ in the Brexit negotiations. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Risks to economic recovery and the Northern Ireland peace process will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s trump cards when he seeks to make us a ‘special case’ in the Brexit negotiations. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Risks to economic recovery and the Northern Ireland peace process will be Taoiseach Enda Kenny's trump cards when he seeks to make us a 'special case' in the Brexit negotiations.

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The leaders of the 28 EU countries, including David Cameron, meet in Brussels today, where Mr Kenny will attempt to outline how the result of the referendum impacts on Ireland more than anybody else.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

"The stakes have always been higher on this issue for Ireland than for any other EU member state," he told the Dáil, while promising his primary goal will be "Ireland's national interests".

Part of the Irish strategy is to 'bat for Britain' because their punishment for voting 'out' will have a ripple affect on trade here and ultimately Anglo-Irish relations.

"It is in nobody's interests for the UK and the EU to have anything but the best possible future relations," Mr Kenny said.

"The closer the UK is to the EU, the better for all of us, and above all for Ireland," he added, in what is a direct challenge to some EU leaders who have indicated they want a scorched earth policy in relation to Britain.

On one hand Mr Kenny called for calm - but on the other said people needed to understand that there has been "a political earthquake".

The aftershocks will take time to settle and EU leaders need to use that space to look at the long-term impact.

Our 'special case' appeal will be based on:

· The economy and the relative importance of each other's markets for trade.

· Northern Ireland, the Peace Process and British-Irish Relations.

· The Common Travel Area and our shared land border.

(L-R) French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi address a press conference ahead of talks following the Brexit referendum at the chancellery in Berlin. Getty Images
(L-R) French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi address a press conference ahead of talks following the Brexit referendum at the chancellery in Berlin. Getty Images

· The role of the UK within the EU and its strategic value to Ireland in that context.

Around €1bn of trade crosses the Irish Sea every week, and hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on it.

Boris Johnson waves as leaves his home by car in London yesterday. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Boris Johnson waves as leaves his home by car in London yesterday. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

"Ireland's starting point will be straightforward. A stable, prosperous, and outward-looking UK is clearly in our own interests and those of the EU as a whole," Mr Kenny said.

On Northern Ireland, the Taoiseach said that urgent and intensive engagement with the British Government and Belfast Executive is needed. We must "see how collectively we can ensure that the gains of the last two decades are fully protected in whatever arrangements are negotiated."

"All three administrations share the common objective of wanting to preserve the Common Travel Area and an open border on the island of Ireland," he said.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald spoke with the British Immigration Minister yesterday as a first step in figuring out how this can be pushed with other EU states.

"I fully understand why many people in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned that Northern Ireland will be outside of a project that has delivered so much for political stability, reconciliation and economic prosperity," Mr Kenny said.

And where once we turned to Britain for help in fending off the demands of Germany and France, particularly in the face of pressure for tax harmonisation, Mr Kenny is now offering to be the UK's strongest advocate.

"Ireland is in an important position given the strength of our relationship with the UK on one hand and our connectedness to the EU on the other."

However, with speculation mounting that Boris Johnson is on course to be the next British prime minister, Mr Kenny said that whoever replaces Mr Cameron should "set realistic and achievable objectives and to build confidence in the UK's good faith".

Ministers have been told to avoid any suggestion that there is a need for panic and will discuss the fallout again at a Cabinet meeting this morning. During a series of Dáil statements yesterday, minister after minister express "regret" at the decision of the UK electorate but said they were prepared for the impact.

Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O'Connor is to do the heavy lifting in relation to "future trading relationships".

China and India are among the countries being targeted for new business but there is also some potential to poach companies who might normally locate in London.

"Of course, Ireland remains a strong, competitive and open economy," Mr Kenny said.

"Our talent pool, competitive and consistent tax regime and long track record of working with foreign companies is something that companies are interested in.

"The fact that Ireland is English-speaking and a member of the EU and eurozone is also attractive," he added.

Mr Kenny will stay in Brussels overnight for a second meeting of EU leaders tomorrow - which will exclude Mr Cameron.

All the while, the minority Fine Gael-led government can expect almost unconditional support from Fianna Fáil.

Its leader Micheál Martin also travels to Brussels today to meet with EU leaders.

"The first thing we need is to make sure we fully define our objectives and have an inclusive national approach to the negotiations. We all need to be wearing the same jersey," he said.

Irish Independent

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