Tuesday 23 January 2018

Enda Kenny speaks with Theresa May at Davos restaurant ahead of keynote address

Mrs May told delegates at 47th annual World Economic Forum that Britain will be 'open for business' after Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with UK Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with UK Prime Minister Theresa May Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Dearbhail McDonald Group Business Editor in Davos

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met with British Prime Minister Theresa May last night in Davos.

The pair had a ten minute conversation at a traditional Swiss restaurant in the alpine town.

Their conversation took place ahead of today's keynote address by Mrs May to the 47th annual World Economic Forum.

In her speech, Mrs May pledged that Britain will be the world's strongest advocate of business, free markets and free trade - and will be "open for business" after Brexit.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

In an address intended to reassure political and business leaders at Davos, Mrs May said Britain had voted for a "bold, ambitious" course when it voted to leave the European Union.

Mrs May denied that Brexit was a rejection of "our friends in Europe" insisting that it was "simply a vote to restore our parliamentary democracy" and to become more global and internationalist.

Voters who opted for Brexit in last year's referendum were choosing to "leave the EU and embrace the world", and Britain would as a result become "even more globalised and internationalist in action and in spirit", she said.

Mrs May said talk of greater globalisation, one of the main themes of discussion at the annual gathering of the world's elite, made many people fearful.

Mrs May is addressing Davos days after a landmark speech in which she said that Britain would leave the European single market.

Ms May's Brexit speech last Tuesday prompted many international bankers attending Davos to announce plans to leave London. Banks that have indicated they will move staff out of the City of London include HSBC and UBS.

HSBC indicated 1,000 jobs from the bank's London business are on course to move to Paris while Barclays is looking to route activities through Ireland and Germany and Switzerland's UBS is preparing to move posts from the UK to the continent.

Mrs May said the modern industrial strategy she will launch next week was part of a plan to turn post-Brexit Britain into a "great meritocracy" and create a "more united nation" that "works for ordinary people".

But the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt warned it was an "illusion" to suggest the UK could leave the EU but retain the benefits of tariff-free trade.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Verhofstadt said no one in the EU wanted to "punish" the UK.

But he said "it is an illusion to suggest that the UK will be permitted to leave the EU but then be free to opt back into the best parts of the European project, for instance by asking for zero tariffs from the single market without accepting the obligations that come with it".

Enda Kenny is not taking part in any public debates or addresses at Davos.

Instead, the Irish delegation, which includes Finance Minister Michael Noonan, will focus on reassuring international investors that Ireland is a a stable and attractive location post Brexit.

Mr Kenny has a series of private bilateral meetings with major multi nationals during his brief trip to the Swiss alpine town.

Today the Taoiseach meets with Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and participates in a closed session of the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL).

He also has meetings with AT&T's Karim Lesina, Omar Ishrak, chairman and CEO of Medtronic, Ginni Rometti, chairman, president and CEO of IBM and with Flemming Ornskov, CEO of Shire.

Tonight Mr Kenny will deliver a speech to the heads of up to 50 global corporations at a dinner hosted by the IDA.

Additional reporting from PA

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