Irish talks with UK on Brexit set to defy EU demands

Ireland looks set to defy the EU by beginning bilateral talks with Britain on the Brexit fallout.

These discussions, which will focus particularly on the future of the North and are set to begin in the coming days, appear to go against the demands of German chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders that no negotiations should begin until the British government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

It comes as the 27 member states will meet over breakfast this morning without British prime minister David Cameron, after a marathon European Council meeting ended at 10.20pm last night at which members discussed Brexit implications.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Cameron admitted: “You cannot have the full benefits of membership without the costs. That is something the next [British] government will need to think through.”

He said he could not put a time frame on when the exit would be triggered. “We need to get this right, we need to take our time. It’s a sad night for me because I didn’t want to be here. I fought very hard for what I believed in.”

However, he added that maintaining a good relationship with Europe and its member states is much more important for him than staying on as prime minister.

Mr Cameron said: “Of course I regret the outcome, but I don’t regret holding the referendum, I think it was the right thing to do.”

The Taoiseach last night highlighted Ireland’s specific interests and concerns around Britain’s exit to his fellow EU leaders.

Ireland is seeking formal recognition of its special relationship with Britain and is lobbying to have a pivotal role in negotiations given the close links between both nations.

British prime minister David Cameron
British prime minister David Cameron

It is understood that many within the EU view Mr Kenny as an experienced leader who has had significant dealings with both Britain and those in Europe and has steered his country out of recession.

A senior official in Jean-Claude Juncker’s administration said: “The Taoiseach is someone who has been around a long time. He is well known in the EU and well respected.”

This was echoed by junior minister Dara Murphy last night who said the Taoiseach would have a “very significant role” in the protracted negotiations, which are expected to take two years.

Mr Murphy, who accompanied the Taoiseach to Brussels, said: “It’s fair to say that all countries irrespective of their size would be aware of our unique position.”

He added that EU leaders recognise the role the Taoiseach had in gaining concessions for Britain ahead of their referendum.

Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker

Arriving at the EU council summit Mr Kenny promised to “make the case for Ireland’s national interest in terms of our economy, in terms of our common travel area, in terms of the peace process and an open border with Northern Ireland”.

He appeared to soften his line when he said he is not in favour of Britain pushing negotiations down the line and said “you can’t have a drift into uncertainty here”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who was also in Brussels yesterday, said there must be a “reasonable timeframe” to starting negotiations.

Meanwhile Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he does not believe there is a need for a hard border between Ireland and the North.

Irish talks with UK on Brexit set to defy EU demands

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