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Thursday 8 December 2016

Kenny: 'Ireland is more at risk than any other EU state'

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meeting the President Michael D Higgins in Glasgow Photo: PA
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meeting the President Michael D Higgins in Glasgow Photo: PA

Ireland is at more risk of being disadvantaged by the Brexit result than any other country in the EU, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.

He is to argue that other EU leaders need to offer us a central role in the negotiations that will lead to Britain leaving the union due to our economic links and the ongoing peace process in the North.

During an emergency sitting of the Dail to debate the fallout from the UK referendum on EU membership, Mr Kenny described last Thursday's result as "a political earthquake".

The stakes "have always been higher" for Ireland and it is in our national interest that Britain secures a good trade deal with the EU, rather than being punished for voting themselves out.

Faith

Mr Kenny will be urging David Cameron's successor as British prime minister "to set realistic and achievable objectives and to build confidence in the UK's good faith".

"Ireland's starting point will be straightforward. A stable, prosperous, and outward-looking UK is clearly in our own interests and those of the EU as a whole.

"The closer the UK is to the EU, the better for all of us, and above all for Ireland.

"However, it will be up to the UK itself to work out what it wants to achieve, and how it sees its future," he said.

Mr Kenny said other European leaders need to understand that "Ireland has unique bilateral interests with the UK".

The reasons for this, he said, were:

- The economy and the relative importance of each other's markets for trade.

- Northern Ireland, the peace process and British-Irish relations.

- The common travel area and our shared land border.

- The role of the UK within the EU and its strategic value to Ireland in that context.

"I and my colleagues in Government have been very clear all along that a Leave result in this referendum would have very significant implications at a national, bilateral and international level," Mr Kenny said.

In an unusual move, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the same Dail debate that Scotland should be fast-tracked back into the EU if it votes for independence.

He said that while the future of Scotland within the UK is a matter for themselves, Ireland should support them in a bid to re-enter the EU if the situation arises. "I and my party believe that it would be unacceptable for Scotland to be treated as a normal candidate country should it seek to remain as a member of the EU.

"It currently implements all EU laws. It manifestly would not need to be reviewed for its standards of governance and ability to implement EU laws.

"It has a strong administration, a distinct legal system and an absolute commitment to European ideals," Mr Martin said.

"Scotland is strong enough to advocate for itself, but Ireland should be its friend and demand fair play should it seek to remain in the EU."

Meanwhile, Dublin MEP Brian Hayes told the Herald that a meeting of the founding countries of the EU in the absence of other member states was "appalling".

The meeting of foreign ministers from France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands took place in Berlin at the weekend.

"I think that sent out the wrong impression entirely... It's important that we work on a 27-member basis," he said.

Mr Hayes added he doesn't believe Britain should suffer "retribution" for the result of the referendum and that Ireland needs to be "a bridge" between the UK and EU.

"Enda Kenny is very well positioned to lead that kind of mediator role, he is very respected here in Europe.

"I think a lot of people will be looking to Ireland to see how we should proceed in terms of the negotiation," he said.

Concessions

Mr Hayes added that Ireland already has "opt-outs on a whole range of issues". He suggested that more concessions for Ireland will need to be secured during the negotiations to ensure we remain competitive with other EU countries.

Seperately, President Michael D Higgins addressed members of Glasgow's Irish community at an event at the Govanhill neighbourhood centre.

Mr Higgins said the heritage, culture and language of the two nations were "deeply interwoven", allowing for a "profound connection and understanding" between the people of Ireland and Scotland.

"The great ties between our nations, and the ancient migratory tendencies that we share, have enabled a greater flourishing of our interconnected culture," he said.

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