herald

Monday 26 September 2016

It's Plan B for Kenny as shell-shocked EU capitals scramble to react to Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny addresses the public about Brexit and how the Government plans to deal with the fallout
Taoiseach Enda Kenny addresses the public about Brexit and how the Government plans to deal with the fallout

The storm caused by the shock Brexit vote has forced the Government to implement its plan B, with maintaining the open border with the North a top priority.

As shell-shocked capitals around Europe scrambled to react, Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved to reassure the public that Britain is not leaving the European Union immediately and there is "breathing space" of at least two years to implement contingency plans.

Among the key points are:

  • Negotiating to preserve the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK;
  • A review of the Summer Financial Statement, which promised €1bn for tax cuts and spending increases;
  • Identifying the potential for new foreign direct investment;
  • Assistance to Irish businesses to diversify their international markets;
  • A diplomatic blitz across the US to ensure there's no doubt over Ireland's continued EU membership;
  • The promotion of Ireland's tourism offering in the British market to advise potential visitors that there continues to be no barriers to coming here.

As concerns continued about the possibility of a "hard border" with the North, Mr Kenny stressed that for now nothing has changed.

"There will be no immediate change to the free flow of people, goods and services between our islands," he said.

But while Mr Kenny called for reflection and debate on the challenges ahead, Sinn Fein called for a vote on Irish reunification.

Its leader Gerry Adams, speaking outside Stormont, said the people in the North voted to remain in the EU and argued that the British government now has no mandate to represent them in Europe.

"There is now a democratic imperative for a border poll. The Irish Government should support this," he said.

He was joined in this call at Leinster House by deputy leader and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald, who called the referendum result "a game changer" and said the case for a vote on Irish unity is "unanswerable".

The Taoiseach dismissed the call. He said under the Good Friday Agreement a border poll can take place if the British Northern Secretary believed a majority want to join the Republic.

"There is no such evidence," Mr Kenny said, adding: "There are much more serious issues to deal with in the immediate term and that's where our focus is."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said his party's view was that Irish unity was the best way forward into the future.

However, he said "the Sinn Fein call is a distraction given that we have such instability and uncertainty".

He said the focus should be on ensuring Ireland gets the best possible deal in the EU Brexit negotiations.

The Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers - who had campaigned for Leave - ruled out holding a unification poll.

She said no opinion surveys indicate that a majority in the North support a United Ireland.

Ms Villiers said that "with common sense" the two jurisdictions can ensure an open border is maintained.

British Prime Minister David Cameron - who has said he will step down by October to allow his successor to enter negotiations on the UK leaving the EU - phoned Mr Kenny to thank him for supporting the Remain campaign.

Issues

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said they touched on "the closeness of the result".

Mr Kenny said he "understood the rationale for the PM's stated preference for initiating negotiations with the EU after a new leader of the Conservative party has been selected".

The two leaders agreed that there would be immediate bilateral contact between senior officials to discuss issues including the common travel area.

The exchange was described as "warm" and Mr Kenny wished Mr Cameron and his family the best for the future.

The Dail will be recalled on Monday to debate the UK referendum result and the Taoiseach is to travel to Brussels next week to meet fellow leaders for a crunch EU Council meeting.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News