Enda Kenny said there would be “very tough” negotiations which would “not be easy” between the UK and Europe when Article 50 is triggered and talks can start.
“Clearly there is going to be some hard talking done here and that will arise from the decision of whatever the British government is,” he said after an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels yesterday.
This was echoed by British prime minister Theresa May who predicted “difficult” exit negotiations.
Mr Kenny said it was very important that Ireland’s “economy, our citizens, our trading links with the UK, our border, our common travel area and the the continuation of the security that has been given to us throughout the peace process” is included in negotiations.
He said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is “anxious” that “we might focus early on North-South relations”.
Mr Kenny said he is taking the lead on behalf of the Government on all Brexit-related issues.
“Some people have said: ‘Why didn’t you appoint a Minister for Brext?’ This is far too serious actually for just any minister to be appointed to try and carry the entire can.
“I chair the Brexit meeting myself, the entire Government, the ministers of State, indeed all the deputies in the House are going have to be involved in this, there is a national challenge here. It’s far too serious to have it allocated in some section in some department.”
Ms May gave a “formal update” on the UK position to EU leaders and reiterated that her government would be triggering Article 50 before the end of March.
Speaking after attending her first EU leaders’ summit, Ms May said: “We will conduct the negotiations in the way that is going to make sure that we get the right deal for the United Kingdom.”
She said it would be up to other countries in the EU as to “how they are going to conduct” their negotiations.
However, she added: “I recognise the scale of the challenge ahead, I am sure there will be difficult moments, it will require some give and take. But I firmly believe that if we approach this in a constructive spirit, as I am, then we can deliver a smooth departure and build a powerful new relationship that works both for the UK and for the countries of the EU, looking for opportunities, not problems.”
Mr Kenny said there had been “a long and, at times, quite emotional” discussions about the plight of Syrian people.
“The Council was very clear in its condemnation of the attacks by Syria and its allies, notably Russia on Aleppo,” he said. “It is clear that international law has been breached here.”
Mr Kenny noted that attacks on hospitals are “international war crimes” and called for the immediate end to air strikes.
“The Council agreed to consider all options should the current atrocities continue and that of course includes further sanctions if necessary and Ireland fully supports this position,” said Mr Kenny.
However, during the meeting, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi demanded that any mention of possible “punitive measures” against Russia be taken out of the official statement published after the summit.