Taoiseach calls cabinet meeting to discuss Brexit

Government ministers have had to break off their election campaign to attend a hastily arranged cabinet meeting to discuss the Brexit deal.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called the cabinet meeting for this morning ahead of a European Council summit to discuss the Government’s position on the likely deal.

Government sources last night said the cabinet meeting is a “one-item” meeting to discuss the potential risks to Ireland’s recovery by a British exit from the EU.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Kenny said proposals being put forward by British prime minister David Cameron should be decided at the EU summit meeting today. He said the cabinet would meet to discuss the four issues being put forward by Mr Cameron.

Speaking in Co Offaly, the Taoiseach said he wanted Britain to remain a central part of the EU. Mr Kenny said Ireland and Britain share strong trade connections and he hoped that would continue.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton denied the jobs targets put forward by Fine Gael would change if the British people voted against remaining a member of the EU. Mr Cameron has agreed to call an emergency cabinet meeting tomorrow if he secures a renegotiation deal at EU summit in Brussels.

The move is an important concession to eurosceptics in his Conservative Party, because it will allow cabinet ministers to immediately speak out in favour of leaving the EU.

Eurosceptics feared the prime minister would wait until next Tuesday’s regular cabinet meeting to lift collective responsibility, giving himself a full weekend to trumpet his renegotiation deal while sceptical cabinet colleagues would remain muzzled. The decision reflects a growing confidence in London that the summit will produce an agreement, although foreign secretary Philip Hammond said he expected negotiations to continue “to the wire”.

European Council president Donald Tusk is embarking on a frantic round of meetings in advance of today’s summit, focusing on central and eastern European member states.

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