Saturday 20 January 2018

France backs us on Brexit in clear split with Merkel

French president Francois Hollande and Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin
French president Francois Hollande and Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

French President Francois Hollande has broken ranks to publicly back Ireland's 'special case' for a place at the centre of Brexit negotiations.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown a clear reluctance to admit Ireland will need concessions, Mr Hollande said France "understands" our position is unique.

"I do recognise that there is a special situation for Ireland. It's a special situation that has to be found a place in the negotiations," he said, after a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

His remarks are a major boost for the Taoiseach after his plea for recognition of the relationship between Ireland and the UK was effectively shunned by Ms Merkel just 10 days ago. She insisted Ireland's "voice" will be equal to that of all other 27 EU Member States.

In contrast, Mr Hollande came to Dublin to declare that he wanted to be an ally during the forthcoming talks. He also acknowledged that while the two countries are the UK's closest neighbours, Ireland is "more of a neighbour than France".

After his brief visit to Dublin, Mr Hollande flew back to Paris where he met with new British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The pair clashed over the timeframe in which the UK should officially request to leave the EU, with Mr Hollande saying "the sooner the better".

Ms May indicated that she will not seek to start formal negotiations until next year.

The French President now intends to "swap views" with Ms Merkel in light of yesterday's meetings.

Irish Independent

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