Wednesday 22 November 2017

Europe's lead Brexit negotiator 'working closely' with Kenny

Michel Barnier: 'I am working seriously to find concrete solutions' Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
Michel Barnier: 'I am working seriously to find concrete solutions' Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

Luke Byrne and Chai Brady

Europe's lead negotiator on Brexit is "working closely" with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to find solutions to the problems posed by the British exit from the EU and is "aware of Irish concerns".

Michel Barnier said he has met with Irish MEPs "several times" to discuss the issue.

"I am working seriously with the Irish Government, with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and I have met several times with the Irish MEPs.

"I am working seriously to find concrete solutions," said Mr Barnier.

It comes as Mr Kenny has again ruled out the idea of a minister with specific responsibility for Brexit.

Read more: Irish ambassador to UK: Fully controlling movement of people and goods between north and south not 'remotely possible'

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One yesterday he said: "There is no other Minister for Brexit around Europe except in Britain".

"So you appoint your spokesman on Brexit and who does he - or she - talk to in Spain or Lithuania or Italy or Latvia?

"As far as I'm concerned the decisions here are made by the European Council, and every Minister of State is a Brexit minister in their area of responsibility," he said.

"They report to me, who chairs the Brexit committee, who works very closely with Minister (Charles) Flanagan and his department obviously, with the Minister for Jobs and Enterprise, the Minister for Agriculture, so important in terms of trading with Britain, the Minister for Education.

"Every single department... has its defined responsibilities, and they attend and meet their council counterparts and their colleagues all over Europe. When you go and talk to the Europeans, the one thing they do know and understand is the Irish peace process, the Irish Border, and how Ireland will be impacted on no more than Northern Ireland if Brexit were to go down."

Manfred Weber, the chair of the European People's Party (EPP), also said he is fully aware of Ireland's "unique concerns and priorities".

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has said it is particularly vulnerable to the UK tourist market.

Visitors from the UK account for 60pc of all overseas holiday-makers to the border counties, which makes them "particularly vulnerable" to Brexit, Joe Dolan, the president of the IHF pointed out.

"To the UK visitor we are now 15pc more expensive than this time last year," he said.

With the sterling weakening, Mr Dolan said there was already research suggesting that travellers from Ireland's most important destinations were more likely to chose Britain over Ireland for a holiday in 2017.

"Many businesses are already feeling the pain of a significantly weaker sterling," he said.

Irish Independent

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