Kenny says State has made good start on Brexit but cannot rest
Taoiseach says Ireland needs to look after own interests when ‘niceties are dropped’
Enda Kenny joked that there would be ‘miaows’ over the UK’s pet passports. Photograph: Reuters
Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the State has made a “good start” to the Brexit process but cannot afford to relax.
He told a Dublin audience on Thursday morning that the likely outcome of the trade and tariff negotiations remains unknown and argued that Ireland would need to make sure it looks after its own interests “when the niceties are dropped and the real talks begin”.
The Taoiseach was attending his first formal engagement since resigning as Fine Gael leader. He addressed a conference on Brexit organised by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.
Mr Kenny made no comment to reporters before or after the event.
In his address, he said nobody knew yet if there would be tariffs between the Republic and the UK.
He said it had been essential for the Government to secure the text underlining the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to a united Ireland if a majority of people north and south wanted it. That, he said, would allow a “seamless transfer” of the North into the EU.
Mr Kenny said many multinational companies throughout Ireland were driven by the cultural mix of the workforce and that situation needed to continue.
“It’s not all about the Irish, with the greatest of respect to our own Irish people, but people from all over the world.”
Setting out the challenges to be faced, he said exporters wanted assurances that the lorries leaving their depots would not be held up at the Border, and companies did not want to be faced with punitive tariffs.
Arguing that the talks needed to be conducted in good faith, he said: “A situation of bad blood and unconstructive comments, it’s not going to help because when we get to the end of the two years [of exit negotiations] will there be a cliff-edge situation?”
He made a humorous reference to the 250,000 pet passports for dogs and cats issued to Britain each year, saying the British had not thought of that when voting for Brexit.
“There will be a lot of miaows about that,” he quipped.
He said the Government and its agencies would continue to work intensely to ensure there would not be an economic shock.
“If you have [the prospect of] an economic earthquake, we have Enterprise Ireland there to make Irish trade more diverse and resilient. Remaining competitive is the real key,” he said.