Time for Enda Kenny to fight with zeal in the tough talks ahead

A tired-looking Taoiseach took to his feet yesterday after Theresa May’s Brexit speech and declared that at long last some clarity has been brought to the situation, writes Juno McEnroe

Only the night before he was forewarned about the details of the speech, during a private call with Ms May.

Her Brexit speech didn’t exactly shine a light on Ireland’s position with regards the North, trade or future relations with Britain.

But it certainly let us know one thing: This is going to be one hell of a hard Brexit.

Britain, not surprisingly, is taking care of itself.

The North was fourth on Ms May’s 12-point list. Even that high up, it didn’t get mentioned as a special case.

Instead, she said no one wants to return to the borders of the past.

Indeed. But does this mean those hard borders, those checkpoints are ruled out? Not necessarily.

In the Dail, Mr Kenny tried to turn the gloomy realities into some good news. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Immediately, there were public warnings about job losses, trade tariffs and fears of a hard border returning with the North.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe went as far as to admit there are tough years ahead now for Ireland.

So what does Brexit mean now for us after Ms May’s speech?

When Britain leaves the single market, it is likely EU tariffs will be applied to goods going to and from Britain.

That will affect Irish businesses.

Already there were calls yesterday for state aid schemes for exporters here, including farmers.

However, Ms May did not give too much away about the North.

A “practical solution” will be needed, she said. Indeed it will, but what does that mean?

In Leinster House, government TDs shied away from reacting and said more clarity is needed from Europe.

But senior European figures were already tweeting their disappointment. European Council president Donald Tusk said it is a “sad process” and mentioned “surrealistic times”.

Undoubtedly, more information is needed about Ireland’s position and the North.

The gloves are now officially off and it is high time the Taoiseach goes out and fights Ireland’s cause openly and with zeal.

Similarly, the Government here must arm itself with allies in Europe and a tough negotiating strategy with Brussels once Brexit is triggered in March, as expected.

There is some relief about a common travel area remaining between Britain and Ireland.

But Ms May’s remarks that there is no desire for a return to the borders of the past and that Dublin and London want customs agreements to remain as “frictionless” as possible mean little without details.

They are just aspirations. Furthermore, such terms need the sanction of Brussels.

We can only hope that Ms May’s visit to Dublin this month might result in more details emerging about Brexit and, hopefully, some real clarity for Ireland.

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