There is no possibility of the Republic of Ireland and the UK striking a bilateral deal with each other outside of the imminent Brexit negotiations involving the EU, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has stressed.
Mr Kenny definitively rejected the potential step after a high-level EU meeting in Brussels, as he admitted it may take longer than the two years initially outlined to untangle Britain and the EU from each other.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a European Council leaders’ meeting, part of which was attended by British prime minister Theresa May, Mr Kenny said he was aware of a report this week by the House of Lords calling for a separate deal between Dublin and London.
The House of Lords plan has been put forward officially due to fears that the unique issues surrounding the border with the North and the need to continue the common travel area between the Republic and Britain may not receive the attention required during wider EU-UK talks.
However, it has also been seen as an attempt to give Britain a stronger hand in further negotiations with the EU over the possibility of a ‘soft’ Brexit option which will allow Britain to continue to benefit from some aspects of the common market.
Asked about the possibility of a bilateral deal, Mr Kenny said the reality is that the Republic remains one of 27 EU member states which will act together on the issue.
Echoing similar remarks by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy, who on Thursday described the House of Lords plan as “nonsensical”, the Taoiseach said a bilateral deal is off the table.
“I think the European Council have been very clear; there won’t be any negotiations until Article 50 [the legislation needed to begin Brexit] is triggered [in March].
“A bilateral deal is not being examined,” he said.
Mr Kenny made the comments as he admitted it may take longer than two years to untangle Britain from the EU post-Brexit.
Under a previously announced schedule, Article 50 is likely to be triggered in March, before Britain formally leaves the EU 18 months later.
Speaking in Westminster earlier this week, Britain’s secretary of state for leaving the EU, David Davis said while this plan remains in place, it could take up to a decade before all legal links between the regions are cut.
In addition, reports in Britain yesterday claimed the UK could be told to pay up to £50bn (€59bn) into the EU until 2020 due to outstanding pension liabilities, loan guarantees, and spending on UK-based projects.
While rejecting suggestions that the situation could take up to a decade to resolve, Mr Kenny added his weight to the issue by saying a two-year Brexit plan may be overly ambitious.
“I did make the point myself that 50 years of legislation and so on would probably be very difficult to deal with in a two-year period. It remains to be seen,” he said.
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