Friday 20 April 2018

Kenny now wants Brexit to start 'as soon as possible' as he talks to May

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will restructure his department Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will restructure his department Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

New British Prime Minister Theresa May should now seek to take the UK out of the European Union "as soon as possible", Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

The Taoiseach spoke with Ms May following her appointment last night and discussed what he described as "the important challenges that arise from the recent vote by the UK to leave the European Union".

Mr Kenny, who had previously pleaded with European leaders to give Britain time to adjust to the Brexit vote, has hardened his stance on the issue.

The change in stance comes as the Government prepares to set up a special Cabinet committee on Brexit and restructure the Department of An Taoiseach to allow more staff focus on Anglo-Irish and EU relations.

Mr Kenny noted that no negotiations on Britain's departure from the EU can begin until Ms May activates Article 50.

In the meantime, Ireland is to "beef up" the numbers of diplomats working in Rome, London, Berlin, Paris and a number of other foreign missions.

In Dublin, a number of staff are to be moved from the Department of An Taoiseach to Foreign Affairs and Trade "to have a more specific focus in the Department of the Taoiseach, assisted by a second secretary general and staff to focus on Brexit and all that".

Mr Kenny is also to seek an early meeting with Mrs May in order to discuss the situation regarding Northern Ireland, border controls and trade.

"These are all things that will have to be teased out," he said.

"Clearly, we will have to wait and see first of all what the British want: do they want a Norwegian, Swiss, Canadian or Singaporean strategy? If we have a situation where we have a country remaining in the EU, which is Ireland, and the United Kingdom leaves, we will have some capacity to monitor goods travelling through from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, that is from an EU country to a country that is not in the EU.

"I do not want to see any hard border or the checkpoints that were there for many years. We do not want to see that."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also called on the new British prime minister to trigger Article 50 "sooner rather than later".

"There appears to be a developing idea in certain sections of the Tory party that the timing for triggering Article 50 is to be used as a negotiating weapon.

"That is of no help to anybody. We cannot all be held to ransom, particularly by the people who demanded Brexit, while they try to figure out what they meant and what they want," he said.

Mr Martin said that the uncertainty could cause "economic harm and can damage the global economic situation, particularly the situation in Europe".

He went on to criticise the outgoing prime minister David Cameron, alleging that he had "neglected Northern Ireland to an excessive degree and he probably indulged anti-European Union rhetoric too much".

"David Cameron leaves office having unfortunately presided over the débâcle of the Brexit referendum," he added.

Irish Independent

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