Saturday 17 August 2019

Defensive Kenny insists all bases covered in Brexit plan

Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, where she was quizzed on Brexit. Photo: PA
Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, where she was quizzed on Brexit. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Analysis compiled by the Government has "covered all possible models for the future UK relationship with the EU", Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Mr Kenny has defended his Brexit strategy in the face of accusations from Opposition parties that there is "no detailed proposals for handling many of the most important issues".

The Taoiseach told the Dáil there is "a clear and comprehensive Brexit plan in place".

"The plan covers deep analysis of all of the issues across Government, extensive consultation and engagement, and pursuit of our key priorities in our consultations with our EU partners and the EU institutions including the Barnier Task Force," Mr Kenny said.

"The plan also covers identification of risks and potential measures to address them, as well as pursuit of the opportunities arising from the UK decision."

His statement came after the Labour Party claimed the self-appointed 'Brexit Minister' was refusing to answer "simple" questions on Ireland's approach.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said there is "no way of avoiding criticism of a response which is simply not good enough".

"There is no doubt that there is a lot of activity under way. We acknowledge this and the work of those involved but, equally, there is every reason to doubt that this activity is anywhere near the level we need.

"For example, it is unacceptable that we are about to enter into the active stage of negotiations at which we need the widest possible understanding and support, yet the Taoiseach, as he said here yesterday, has personally met only six of the 27 heads of government who will be involved," Mr Martin said.

He added that now is "a time to build coalitions, but the time is being wasted".

Mr Martin said diplomatic activity "at the very highest level must be stepped up".

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said it was "strange" that last month's European Council meeting didn't mention Brexit in its report.

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An informal meeting of EU members, excluding the UK, did discuss the issue but Mr Howlin said he was "concerned" that its conclusions made "no reference whatsoever to Ireland".

However, Mr Kenny said that "nobody should be under any doubt that Brexit is the top priority across Government and a competent and comprehensive plan is in place and being executed".

"All of this work is being driven by a complex co-ordination process, beginning with the Cabinet Committee which I chair, including an extensive range of official working groups, and mobilising ministers, diplomats and officials right across our system," the Taoiseach said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "When the negotiations start later in the spring, we, together with our EU partners, will face the UK across the negotiating table and will strive for a deal that everyone can accept but, more importantly, that protects Ireland's fundamental interests.

"It will not be easy, but we are prepared."

Irish Independent

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