Sunday 25 February 2018

UK will stay, but Europe to change forever - Kenny

Mr Kenny admitted he was concerned about the EU referendum result, but said he was also hopeful. Pic Tom Burke
Mr Kenny admitted he was concerned about the EU referendum result, but said he was also hopeful. Pic Tom Burke

Caroline Crawford and Colm Kelpie

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he believes the Remain side will win in Thursday's Brexit vote - but warned that Europe would be "changed forever", regardless of the outcome.

Mr Kenny said he believed the outcome of Britain's vote on whether to leave or remain in the EU would all depend on turnout, whether people were sufficiently motivated to vote and whether they were "very clear on what they were voting for".

It comes as the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) fractionally downgraded its forecast for economic growth, partly on the back of uncertainty caused by the referendum.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny admitted he was concerned about the result, but said he was also hopeful.

Watch: VIDEO: EU referendum: What will Brexit mean for Northern Ireland's borders?

"I am hopeful and my instinct would indicate to me that people will begin to reflect very seriously on this decision, which in my view is the most fundamental decision of the last 50 years - so I hope that there is a conclusion to this and the result will be for Britain to stay," he said.

However, he also said the outcome would have a lasting impact on Europe regardless of the outcome.

"I think that either way Europe is going to be changed forever as a consequence of this particular vote.

"There are issues that need to be dealt with in Europe but the other 27 countries excluding Britain have decided to put a package together through which the British Prime Minister can ask his people to vote to stay and that package will be implemented forthwith.

"If the vote is negative, in other words to leave, then that package dies and obviously we would then have to discuss matters with Britain from a European membership perspective," he added.

Mr Kenny, who was in Castlebar at the launch of the Mayo Age Friendly Strategy, again reiterated his concerns about the impact a Leave vote would have on Ireland.

"We've pointed out from our point of view our vested interest [in] the Irish community in Britain and Northern Ireland who have the opportunity to vote in this referendum and we say unashamedly that they should vote to remain, to continue to be a foremost member of the European Union.

"I pointed out what our inevitable difficulties are if the decision is the other way, where you would have a European border from Derry to Dundalk and not just a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. And also clearly what has been pointed out by business [about] the difficulties for companies exporting through Britain and to Britain from Ireland," he said.

It comes as the ESRI fractionally revised down its growth forecasts, with the prospect of a British exit from the European Union partly to blame.

In its latest quarterly economic commentary, the think tank said uncertainty surrounding Thursday's vote is already having an impact.

Read more: Irish border residents fearful in run-up to referendum, say business leaders

It downgraded its growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points for this year, to 4.6pc growth, as a result of a slowdown in global trade and wariness about the referendum.

David Duffy, ESRI senior research officer, said the uncertainty surrounding the vote has impacted on the strength of sterling, pushed Irish borrowing costs up and weighed on export orders.

"While we still have to wait for the outcome of the vote, Brexit in the background has had an influence on our forecasts in this period," Mr Duffy said.

Kieran McQuinn, ESRI associate research professor, said a so-called Brexit is a "big downside risk".

Irish Independent

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