Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised to “make the case for Ireland’s national interest” in Brexit negotiations.
Arriving at the European Council summit in Brussels yesterday afternoon, Mr Kenny appeared to soften his line when he said he is not in favour of Britain pushing negotiations too far out into the future and warned that “you can’t have a drift into uncertainty here”.
The 28 EU leaders gathered to discuss the fallout from Friday’s Brexit vote. The crunch meeting, which included British prime minister David Cameron, continued into the early hours of this morning.
The leaders will meet again over breakfast, though without Mr Cameron, as the 27 wish to thrash out the consequences of Brexit.
Mr Kenny said: “I am going to attend this meeting as Taoiseach and I am going to make the case for Ireland’s national interest here 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.
“Obviously the discussions that will take place eventually in relation to the relationship between the EU and the UK will be central to that and obviously we want to be party to those discussions and those negotiations.”
Mr Kenny said he is not in favour of pushing Brexit negotiations down the line, but is “happy” that Mr Cameron said it will be his successor as prime minister who will trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the exit process.
“I agree that there should be some little time given to the Conservative Party to elect a new prime minister, that has been brought forward by a month and I think that’s good, that is going to give a sense of stability before the triggering of article 50,” said Mr Kenny.
“And that new prime minister, whoever that may be, he or she will have to determine what their views are.”
He said the new prime minister “may need some time, but you can’t have a drift into uncertainty here”.
Mr Kenny attended the European People’s Party (EPP) summit yesterday morning, where members including Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Nicolas Sarkozy discussed their position on Brexit.
Mr Kenny added: “EPP countries are well aware of Ireland’s position but I will articulate and our people will articulate very strongly what our vital national interests are here.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who was also in Brussels yesterday, said there must be a “reasonable timeframe” to starting negotiations.
He ruled out the possibility of Brexit triggering another general election here. “That would only further add to the instability,” he said.
“I think we need to keep our focus now on organising the country so that it’s ready for the negotiations, that it’s well prepared, and that all contacts across Europe are used to advance the Irish position in the negotiations.”
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