Brexit will not mean hard border with North, Taoiseach insists

Brexit will not mean hard border with North, Taoiseach insists

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has re-iterated his belief that Ireland and Britain "have agreed" the Brexit fallout will not result in the return of a hard border, despite ongoing questions over the matter from within the EU, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent.

The Fine Gael leader made the claim as he insisted Ireland must not prioritise "tactical short-term" opportunities caused by the political crisis and should instead focus on the longer-term needs of this country.

Speaking during a crowded Brexit forum meeting in Dublin city's Westin Hotel, Mr Kenny said the issue remains a key matter which Ireland must ensure is resolved sensibly.

Stressing the benefits of an open border with Britain and the common travel area that exists between the Republic, Northern Ireland and the UK, he said both governments "have agreed" there must be no return to a hard border regardless of what takes place.

However, while emphasising the point throughout his speech, he added that "Britain will want a British solution" to its future relationship with the EU, and that in a situation where EU nations are insistent there can be no softening of the rules for the UK this means he "I don't know" what impact this may have on Ireland.

Speaking during the same Brexit event, Mr Kenny also said that Ireland cannot prioritise "tactical short-term" opportunities caused by last June's Brexit vote to the detriment of future needs.

He said the issue has been a consistent problem for Irish governments and that the current coalition needs to focus on the long-term benefits of policies to Ireland.

"Maintaining a long-term view identifying where we want to be as a country and ensuring that we have the right policies in place to get us there has traditionally not been a strong suit in this country.

"We have too often been driven by the here and now, and insufficiently attentive to the challenges that lie further down the road," he said.

While acknowledging there are ongoing issues within the EU which contributed to the Brexit result and must be resolved, Mr Kenny said future decisions within the EU bloc cannot be a "moonshot".

He said "sensible positions" must be taken to "implement important decisions and deliver concrete results for its citizens", and that while the EU "doesn't have to define the next great challenges" it needs to demonstrate that it can "respond effectively to them".

Mr Kenny's comments came just days after the cross-border All-Island Civil Dialogue in Dublin which was focussed on allowing detailed political, business and social responses to the Brexit vote.

During that meeting, the Taoiseach controversially said the UK's departure from the EU could be triggered as soon as next month instead of the expected March 2017 date.

The position was directly contradicted by Downing Street later in the day and was followed just 24 hours later by a UK court decision specifically stating the Brexit result must be voted on by the British parliament.

Mr Kenny said yesterday the it "remains to be seen" whether the court ruling will delay any Brexit move, but stressed "we have no option but to proceed apace with our preparations".

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