Sunday 18 February 2018

'A political earthquake'- Enda Kenny on the four reasons Brexit stakes are higher for Ireland than any other EU country

Taoiseach Enda Kenny . Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny . Photo: Tom Burke

Group Political Editor

The stakes “have always been higher” for Ireland than any other EU member state in relation to a Brexit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

During an emergency sitting of the Dáil to debate the fallout from the UK referendum on EU membership, Mr Kenny described last Thursday’s result as “a political earthquake”.

And he said that Ireland will be seeking a special deal when negotiations on Britain’s’ new relationship with the EU begin.

Mr Kenny will be urging David Cameron’s successor as British Prime Minister “to set realistic and achievable objectives and to build confidence in the UK’s good faith”.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil the our national interest will be his key priority at a meeting of EU leaders tomorrow – and indicated that he will fight against countries who want to punish Britain by imposing tough trading conditions. 

“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.

“The closer the UK is to the EU, the better for all of us, and above all for Ireland. However, it will be up to the UK itself to work out what it wants to achieve, and how it sees its future,” he said.

Mr Kenny said other European leaders need to understand that “Ireland has unique bilateral interests with the UK”.

The reason for this, he said were:

· 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;

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

“I and my colleagues in Government have been very clear all along that a Leave result in this referendum would have very significant implications at a national, bilateral and international level,” Mr Kenny said.

He called for a cross-party approach, something that was echoed by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“While the referendum result is not the outcome we wanted, we always knew this result was possible.  And we are ready for the challenges ahead,” Mr Kenny said.

“Let me be absolutely clear: my primary goal is Ireland’s national interests and that goal will be foremost in any discussions: with the UK; with our EU partners; and between the EU collectively and the UK.”

Mr Kenny also said there was no threat to Ireland’s corporation tax rate of 12.5pc.

He said references to it being changes “are not valid”.

“We’ve resisted every attempt on that in the past and will do so again in the future,” he said.

Earlier Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes told the Irish Independent that Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU if bigger countries sought to push tax harmonisation.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin told the Dáil: “We all need to be wearing the same jerseys.”

He called for a  cross government taskforce with officials who are seconded full-time to work on the Brexit strategy. It would include representatives of the farming and business bodies.

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