Thursday 27 October 2016

'National effort' needed to get Ireland a special deal on Brexit

A festival-goer at Glastonbury passes a pro-EU banner. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
A festival-goer at Glastonbury passes a pro-EU banner. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Taoiseach Enda Kenny . Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (pictured) will give Taoiseach Enda Kenny every support. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fianna Fail is offering Taoiseach Enda Kenny every support “in the national interest” as he takes part in the negotiations that will lead to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Party leader Micheal Martin said there will be no attempt to undermine the minority Government on European issues at a “critical” time for Ireland.

“I see this as something that’s above political parties, to be honest. It’s not about giving anybody leeway,” he said.

“There was engagement and communication this week and I welcome that. I think there will be a free exchange of views and it’ll be more in the sense of giving advice, not in any sort of arrogant way.

“Basically, it will be giving our take on it, working with the contacts we have in Europe to get the right result for Ireland. That’s the approach we’ll be taking.”


Mr Martin said Britain is going to have to “swallow hard” in the coming months, but a deal with the EU similar to the Nor-

wegian model – where it receives favourable trading conditions – would benefit Ireland.

“That’s critical in terms of the economic outlook for Ireland,” he said.

Mr Martin spoke to the

Herald as Mr Kenny prepared to travel to Brussels tomorrow for a meeting of EU leaders that will initially include outgoing British prime minister David Cameron.

There were mixed messages over the weekend as to how quickly Britain should invoke Article 50 which requires the formal negotiations for its departure.

The Irish Government is to seek a special deal that will allow Irish nationals to continue to work and travel in Britain without a visa. However, there is no guarantee that other EU countries will agree to this.

Initially, the key priorities are maintaining trade with the UK, guaranteeing free movement of people between the UK and Ireland and protecting the relationship between the Dublin and Belfast administrations.

One senior government source said last night that ministers have been warned to put a “positive face” on the Brexit fallout, but “a massive task” lies ahead.

Behind the scenes there are serious concerns that it will damage economic growth and reduce the Government’s ability to increase investment in housing and health in future Budgets.

The new Rainy Day Fund, which was expected to accumulate €3bn between 2018 and 2021, is now also in doubt, as is the time frame for the impending sale of AIB.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said Ireland needs to work with other EU countries to ensure we get the best deal.

“Other EU states are not our enemies, they are our partners. They will be conscious that one member state has just left,” she said.

“They will need to keep the family together, not try to implement polices that have been resisted.”

However, Ms McGuinness’ colleague Sean Kelly reckoned that “initially” some countries will struggle to see why Ireland should once again be the “special case”.

“Whatever happens with Britain, there has to be an understanding for us,” MEP Sean Kelly said last night.

“There is no point in punishing the UK if that in turn punishes us.”

Education Minister Richard Bruton has warned against rushing into a border poll.

Speaking on RTE yesterday, the Fine Gael TD said there is a process under the Good

Friday Agreement in relation to a border poll, but now was not the time to bring it up.

“This is a time we need to give reassurances to people rather than raising topics we know are divisive,” he said.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and London voted in favour of remaining in the EU.

Calls for a border poll have been made by Sinn Fein TDs Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald as well as the party’s Martin McGuinness, who serves as Deputy First Minister in the Stormont Assembly.


Ms McDonald has said the fresh calls are not a knee-jerk reaction by her party.

“It is sensible, of course, to proceed in an orderly fashion, but our call for a referendum on Irish unity is not a new call,” she said. “It is an absolute honest recognition that we now have a huge problem for Ireland.

“We make the call on Irish unity as a core expression of the national interest. Anyone donning the ‘green jersey’ will not allow the North of Ireland to be politically marooned at the behest of Tory England.”

Mr Bruton also defended the EU, insisting that some forget the impact it has had on Ireland, and that negotiations with the UK are vital for Ireland.

“It’s not a perfect institution by any means, but the EU has improved our education system, our social welfare and our infrastructure,” he said.

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