Kenny's big plans for St Patrick's Day trade missions
Delegations to focus on Europe and Asia in wake of Brexit
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told Fine Gael ministers to prepare for a vastly expanded programme of St Patrick's Day trade missions as part of a fresh attempt to lure businesses to Ireland in the wake of Brexit.
Mr Kenny will use the annual ministerial globe-trotting tradition to this year target regions in South East Asia where it is hoped major corporations will be convinced to invest in Ireland.
The Government believes investment from emerging markets could limit any potential economic damage from UK Prime Minister Theresa May's determination to cut off all ties with the EU.
St Patrick's Day delegations will also be sent to key European capitals and ministers will be tasked with drumming up support from EU leaders as Brexit negotiations come closer. Ministers will travel to the UK and US but there will be a stronger focus on European cities and emerging markets in Asia and South America.
Last week, the Taoiseach set out his plans for St Patrick's Day at a meeting of Fine Gael ministers. He also instructed ministers to set out a clear schedule of Brexit-related work their departments will undertake in the coming weeks and months.
May's speech on her plans to push for a so-called hard Brexit has put huge pressure on the Government to prepare for the fallout from Britain's decision to leave the EU single market and customs union. The Government suffered another blow on Friday when EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said a trade deal between the EU and UK can only begin after the two-year-long Brexit negotiations are completed. May has yet to officially begin the exit process by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty but is expected to do so in March.
Yesterday, Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said Commissioner Moscovici's comments were "highly significant and indeed alarming for Ireland".
"Commissioner Moscovici's comments in Davos on the timing of a UK/EU trade deal and his remark that there can be no talks with the UK on customs until after the two-year Article 50 process increase further the risk of a hard Brexit. Such a scenario will result in enormous negative economic consequences for Ireland," he said.
Last week, the Department of Finance said a hard Brexit could result in a 3.5pc drop in economic output over five years, a €20bn increase in our national debt and 40,000 job losses. Meanwhile, Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has insisted Brexit will not result in significant changes to security arrangements on Ireland's border with Northern Ireland.
Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland and the UK always cooperated closely on securing the borders in the common travel area.
"In that regard a central feature of the operation of the common travel area has been that each state enforces the other's conditions of landing for non-European Economic Area nationals, thus protecting each other's borders," she told the Sunday Independent.