The European Commission has no plans in place to accommodate Ireland’s special relationship with Britain in the wake of Brexit.
European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen yesterday said the commission has “no policy” on providing concessions or establishing a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Britain.
“It’s too early to take any position on this,” he said.
“The commission doesn’t have any policy on this. Basically in legal terms what we’ll have — there are two different negotiations which are supposed to be started.”
He said small countries such as Ireland “are sometimes more vulnerable than the others in terms of financial instability”.
Another commission spokesman said it was still in “speculation territory” when it came to the reintroduction of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the North.
“It would be very premature now at this stage to assess specific consequences in specific policy areas. This is yet to be seen,” he said.
It comes ahead of crunch talks between EU leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, today and tomorrow.
Mr Kenny appears to be at odds with many other members of the European People’s Party, of which Fine Gael is a member.
Its spokesman, Siegfried Muresan, yesterday said Britain needed to start the exit process by evoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty “immediately”, adding that “whether it’s right or wrong, it’s important” to help the EU and Britain progress.
Mr Kenny has been campaigning for a gradual exit which would allow Britain negotiate the best possible deal and could allow Ireland to hammer out agreements on trade, the border, and work permits.
Mr Muresan was adamant Britain would not be given the luxury of “cherry-picking” its terms and conditions for leaving. He said it would be legally difficult to take account of Ireland’s special relationship with Britain.
“When it comes to the rights of other member states like Ireland and my home country Romania, we do not know how [special arrangements] will take place,” he said.
“We will have to politically follow that into the negotiations but legally we do not know how that will work out in the sense that freedom of goods, of capital, of people exists in the European Union, but once Britain is outside, what is the legal basis for those freedoms?
“We do not know how that will legally work out in practice but it has to be made a political priority for the prime ministers and presidents of the countries affected and for the leaders in Brussels.”
Mr Muresan said that before the referendum, UK prime minister David Cameron had promised swift action after the vote but had now changed this line. “David Cameron made concessions to the euroskeptics and the more he conceded the more he demanded from him,” said Mr Muresan, adding “
Europe will simply not allow Great Britain do any cherry-picking with the EU”.
Mr Kenny will join the other EU leaders in Brussels this evening. They will meet without Mr Cameron over breakfast tomorrow where it is expected they will forge a common line and co-ordinate their views.
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