Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan has said Brexit gives Ireland an opportunity to strike out and forge new relationships and that the country should be prepared to cut its ties with Britain.
Mr Hogan yesterday said the Brexit process was a “mess” and was only getting messier.
His comment came after signals from British prime minister Theresa May at the weekend that the terms Britain would seek to leave the EU would likely create a hard Brexit.
Mr Hogan suggested Ireland should look to make new allies.
“Brexit will happen and we now need to take a very strategic and far-sighted review of our relationships with both the UK and the rest of our European partners. There will be a new dynamic in European affairs, and Ireland needs to be absolutely prepared to influence, shape and lead that dynamic and change.
“If we don’t step up to the plate in managing this fundamental shift in our relationship with our European neighbours, then others will shape the environment for us.
“It would be a fundamental error on our part to place an excessive reliance on our bilateral relationship with the UK as the best means of ensuring that Ireland’s strategic interests are best protected in the Brexit discussions.
“While none of us desired Brexit, it is a reality that we now have to face. Unwittingly, Brexit may present Ireland with the chance to seize the next phase in our development and maturity as a sovereign state.”
Brexit would force Ireland “to forge relations and shape our destiny within the EU without the presence of our nearest and strongest ally since 1973”.
He also suggested that “clearly, Brexit is a mess and getting messier” but that the EU would likely be looking to safeguard the North’s peace process.
Separately, Enterprise Ireland is advising firms here to prepare for a hard Brexit.
Agency CEO Julie Sinnamon defended the decision to advise companies, saying it was “foolish” to do otherwise given the current signs from Downing Street.
Elsewhere, British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond hinted yesterday Brexit may take longer than two years to complete.
Britain has signalled it will trigger its exit in March, with a two-year period to complete it. But speaking in Dublin, Mr Hammond said: “If necessary we will have to discuss what the interim period should look like between Britain leaving the European Union and delivering those long term arrangements if we can’t get them in place by April 2019.
“But our first objective will clearly be to try to get everything negotiated and completed by April 2019.”
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