Enda Kenny looks to persuade EU leaders over Irish concerns

Ireland’s border, trade interests, and special relationship with Britain will all be used by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he attempts to persuade EU leaders of concerns around a rushed Brexit.

Though the language from European capitals has been tempered since the weekend, Mr Kenny has a big task to calm leaders anxious to make an example of Britain.

Ireland wants to ensure some special arrangement can be kept with Britain. The Government thinks this can be achieved by a slow, methodical Brexit, with beneficial terms for the UK.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said he had the “respect” of those at this week’s EU summit due to Ireland’s successful exit from the bailout, our border with Britain, and also because Mr Kenny is one of the longest-serving leaders at the summit.

Will these matter if leaders want Britain to trigger article 50 quickly? Things could easily go wrong for us, especially if a special deal cannot be done with Britain.

Certainly, there was concern about remarks by European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen this week that the commission had “no policy” on providing concessions between Ireland and Britain.

European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen
European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen

Officials in Dublin and London are set to begin discussions about any changes to the North. Talk of a border poll is being played down.

There are questions around reinstating border posts, of increased movement of people, and of potential security gaps. The €1bn in weekly trade that crosses the Irish Sea is also of huge importance.

But there is a two-way process in play with Britain. German chancellor Angela Merkel calmed tensions by saying there would be no Brexit talks until article 50 is invoked. In other words, Britain will decide when it will formally request an exit.

Government officials privately admit parallel talks will take place about terms Britain wants with other countries and the EU, especially on issues like trade and immigration. The key message from Mr Kenny’s side is that Ireland “will protect its own interests”.

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