Saturday 24 February 2018

Brexit transition deal between UK and EU is 'inevitable' - Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys

Niall O'Connor, in Cardiff

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a Brexit transition deal between the UK and EU is 'inevitable'.

He also ruled out the prospect of a border poll in the imminent future.

Enda Kenny told Sky News it would be "impossible" to agree a full Brexit deal within the two-year period for negotiations which is set out in the Lisbon Treaty, the formal process for leaving the EU.

He also suggested it would take longer than three years for the UK to leave the EU.

Ruling out the prospect of a border poll, the Taoiseach insisted that the Good Friday Agreement provides for a move towards an United Ireland if it is desired by voters.

The issue of a United Ireland was the subject of tense exchanges at a press conference held following a sitting of the British Irish Council in Cardiff.

Mr Kenny was asked on a number of occasions about a speech he made at a Fine Gael fundraiser in Dublin City on Wednesday night, during which he put the issue of a United Ireland back on the agenda.

The North’s First Minister Arlene Foster rejected the idea outright, claiming that the issue is a “non story”.

Taking a swipe at Mr Kenny, who was sitting three seats away, Ms Foster remarked that “Enda loves it” when the issue is brought up in the public domain.

The Fine Gael leader nodded his head in disapproval, adding: “I don’t”.

He later insisted that a border poll is not up for discussion.

“This matter has been set out in the Good Friday Agreement. There is no intention of having a border poll now. There is no indication that a border poll would succeed now. We have enough on our plates at the moment to deal with Brexit and the many challenges that arise from many other issues,” Mr Kenny said.

He said he voiced concern at the fundraiser - which was organised by Dublin North West TD Noel Rock - that countries such as Northern Ireland and Scotland would have to wait years before gaining access to the EU.

Mr Kenny said that he would like to see any future arrangement between the EU and the UK ensure that  joining the EU does not involve such a “long and bureaucratic process”.

“We should put language in that now to cater for that eventuality were it ever to happen,” Mr Kenny said, giving the example of East and West Germany.

He later pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement provides for a scenario whereby there can be moves towards a United Ireland, if it is desired by voters. 

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