Coalition wants talks on Brexit and UK ties by year end

Government figures have said they want tough negotiations on how Brexit may impact on Ireland’s trade or result in border checkpoints with the North to begin before the end of year.

However, a fresh threat by British prime minister Theresa May to walk away from the Brexit talks if a favourable deal looks unlikely has hit hopes in Government about negotiations for Ireland.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “concerned” by Ms May’s threat, which came after a show of strength among European leaders at a weekend summit in Brussels.

Ground rules to govern Brexit negotiations were agreed. Leaders also backed a special declaration the North could rejoin the EU in the event of a vote for reunification. Irish negotiators were satisfied with the so-called “Kenny text” on the North and the general Brexit terms which support “flexible” solutions to protect the peace process and avoid a hard border.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the extra “significant legal” declaration, saying it was an important recognition of the Good Friday Agreement. He denied trying to trigger a referendum on reunification.

“If the provision of unity by peaceful means and by consent and democratic means is invoked at some time in the future, EU membership is assured,” he said.

“It’s an important milestone today, I regard it as such. It marks the beginning of what will be a long and difficult process.

“That’s a significant European statement from the European Council for something that may happen some time in the future.”

The declaration had been discussed with Ms May and her predecessor, David Cameron, he said.

However, farmers and businesses want to know when talks will begin on how Ireland’s trade will be impacted with Britain leaving the bloc. There are fears of large tariffs hitting Irish exports when Britain leaves the EU.

Nonetheless, negotiations on these concerns and others will have to wait until sufficient progress on other priorities has been made, EU leaders agreed.

These issues include the status of EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens residing in the union, the relocation of EU agencies and the cost of Britain’s divorce bill, estimated to be €60bn. EU council president Donald Tusk signalled this as did German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Government figures told the Irish Examiner they hoped the second round of talks on trade or a future relationship could begin before the end of the year. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier thinks talks on trade will begin next year. Mr Kenny said Ireland wants a “tariff-free” arrangements but it is “too early to say what the outcome will be.”

Meanwhile, Ms May yesterday reiterated that she would walk away from any deal on Brexit if it was looking bad for Britain. Mr Flanagan said he was “concerned” at this and no deal would be bad for Ireland.

Meanwhile. former taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday warned any push for a referendum on a united Ireland could backfire.

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