Tuesday 20 February 2018

Polish PM fails to back our 'special status' on Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo during his visit to Warsaw Picture: Artur Widak
Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo during his visit to Warsaw Picture: Artur Widak
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ireland's push for a 'special status' in the Brexit negotiations has suffered a setback with the Polish prime minister's refusal to back such a move.

Beata Szydlo said the issues surrounding Northern Ireland were just one of "many questions" that would have to be addressed in the forthcoming negotiations.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Poland, Ms Szydlo said the two countries shared many common interests in relation to the EU. In particular, she said Poland, like Ireland, was adamant EU citizens in the UK should continue to enjoy the same rights post-Brexit.

"We agreed that there can be no limitations whatsoever with regard to trade," she said.

However, when asked about Mr Kenny's desire to get special recognition for the Irish situation, she said: "We are only at the start of the process of Great Britain leaving the European Union. There are a lot of questions being raised."

Mr Kenny told the same press conference that Ireland will be affected more heavily by Brexit than any other country.

"The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are both the places most adversely affected by Brexit, and we need to be imaginative and creative as to how we deal with the situation," he said. "It does give us a special situation, which is increasingly recognised in Europe."

The Taoiseach's trip to Poland was the latest in a series of EU visits to brief leaders on Brexit. He has already travelled to Spain and Malta. He said that he had explained the "set of circumstances in Ireland" to the Polish prime minister.

"We are the only place in the EU where there is a peace process, supported by both the European Union and the United States, and this gives us special status as it is," Mr Kenny said.

Both leaders agreed that the EU needs major reforms on the back of the Brexit negotiations if it is to survive. "The European Union has to better respond to the needs of its citizens and it has to react more efficiently to the challenges they are facing," Ms Szydlo said.

"For Poland and Ireland, it is important to focus the actions of the European Union on the agenda of economic growth, employment and competitiveness. It is also necessary to remove barriers. It is important to avoid projects which introduce divisions."

Outside of Brexit, the prime ministers discussed Irish-Polish relations, with Ms Szydlo thanking the Taoiseach for the "very hospitable welcome" that 150,000 Poles have received in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan met the European Commission Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday to "ensure that Ireland's unique concerns are well understood".

He said Mr Barnier was on record as "recognising and understanding" these concerns.

Irish Independent

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