Hammond meets Noonan on post-Brexit relationship

Irish visit marks start of diplomatic push by British chancellor before departure from EU

Gerry Mallon, chief executive of Ulster Bank; chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond; and Patrick Walsh, managing director of Dogpatch Labs, at the Dogpatch Labs co-working space in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

Gerry Mallon, chief executive of Ulster Bank; chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond; and Patrick Walsh, managing director of Dogpatch Labs, at the Dogpatch Labs co-working space in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

 

The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, met the British chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, in Dublin on Monday to discuss the post-Brexit relationship between the Republic and the UK.

Mr Noonan invited Mr Hammond to Dublin at a recent meeting of European finance ministers. The chancellor also held meetings with the chief executives of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, and at Dogpatch Labs, a working space for technology start-ups during his visit.

Mr Hammond is said to be one of the chief proponents of a “soft Brexit” within the British cabinet, recently suggesting that the UK could remain in the EU’s customs union for at least a transitional period after it leaves the union.

Should the UK remain in the customs union, it would be much easier to maintain the open border between the North and the Republic, one of the Government’s main priorities. However, other elements within the British government favour leaving both the EU’s single market and the customs union. The prime minister, Theresa May, has yet to make her plans clear, though comments she made in a weekend interview point to a hard Brexit outcome..

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Noonan said the two men “engaged constructively on Ireland’s enduring relationship with the UK and on the many areas of common interest that our two countries share. We will continue to keep in regular contact throughout the coming year and beyond.

Ireland has a strong and unequivocal position on what Brexit means for Ireland and how we intend to deal with that . . . The Government’s headline priorities remain: the economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area and the future of the EU itself. In particular, we would like to see a seamless border between Ireland and the UK especially with Northern Ireland,” he said.

In a statement released through the Department of Finance, Mr Hammond said the “unique relationship between Ireland and the UK has never been more important or as complex. The prime minister has already made clear that she is personally committed to building on the strengths of this relationship and I met finance minister Michael Noonan today to discuss how we will maintain the closest possible economic relationship in the future”.

“Trade between our two countries benefits each nation enormously and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, so it is in everyone’s interest to build upon our strong ties.”

The Dublin visit comes at the start of a diplomatic push by the UK finance minister before Britain starts formal talks to leave the European Union amid reignited speculation of a hard Brexit.

Mr Hammond will hold talks with German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Berlin on Tuesday.

The former foreign secretary will also attend a conference on the challenges facing Europe with German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.

The UK plans to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, firing the starting gun for two years of talks. – Additional reporting by Bloomberg