Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted a united Ireland clause must be included in any Brexit deal, effectively allowing Northern Ireland to immediately rejoin the EU if it votes to reunify with the Republic.
Mr Kenny outlined the controversial position at a crunch meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels yesterday.
Speaking at a joint press conference which also heard Mr Juncker confirm he does not want a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland and Mr Kenny say he will represent Ireland at EU leaders Brexit strategy talks in early April, the Taoiseach said a United Ireland clause must be included in any EU-UK deal.
Citing the reunification of east and west Germany in 1990 and the language of the 1998 Good Friday agreement allowing for a united Ireland vote should one be sought in the future, the Taoiseach said: “If at some future time, whenever that might be, if it [a successful United Ireland vote] were to occur, that Northern Ireland would have ease of access to join as a member of the European Union again.
“And we want that language inserted into the negotiated treaty or the negotiated outcome.”
Mr Kenny said language can be copied from the Good Friday agreement and pasted into a future Brexit treaty to enable Northern Ireland to re-enter the bloc without signing a separate treaty.
“We want that to remain in such a position that the language of what’s contained in the Good Friday Agreement will also be contained in the negotiation outcome,” he said.
While Mr Juncker declined to say if he supported the plan - simply saying the Good Friday agreement is “like a poem” and “speaks for itself” - Mr Kenny’s comment was welcomed by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams last night.
However, it is likely to be heavily criticised by both the DUP and UUP and form a key part of the ongoing Stormont election campaign.
Meanwhile, during the same meeting the EU gave its clearest indication yet that it will work for an invisible Irish post-Brexit border.
Speaking to reporters Mr Juncker said he wants to keep the border “as open as possible”, adding: “We don’t want to have hard borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic.”
However, in keeping with previous comments on the issued there is still no clarity on how a hard border can be avoided.
The Taoiseach will return to Brussels next week for further meetings, and says he hopes to stay on as leader when Brexit talks kick off, which is expected in early April.
He told reporters yesterday he intends to represent Ireland at planned EU leaders Brexit strategy talks at that time - giving a clear indication he will not immediately step down after returning from the White House.
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