Ireland seeks common Brexit strategy with Dutch and Danes

Enda Kenny to hold mini summit with leaders in bid to bring trade focus to EU talks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will use the summit to highlight specific Irish concerns, such as the Border and the Common Travel Area. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will use the summit to highlight specific Irish concerns, such as the Border and the Common Travel Area. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to meet the leaders of like-minded EU countries to ensure that upcoming Brexit talks move swiftly on to trade and do not get delayed by the UK’s so-called divorce settlement.

Mr Kenny will hold a mini-summit next week in The Hague with the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Denmark, the other two countries most affected by Brexit.

The Taoiseach, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and Denmark’s Lars Løkke Rasmussen do not want the Brexit talks to stall over the “divorce bill” from the EU, which some estimates have put as high as €60 billion.

Sources said they are agreed that the “sequencing” of the talks must allow for a rapid move to the second stage of Brexit negotiations, which will lay the foundations for the future EU-UK relationship.

Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy said that while Ireland was not seeking to build “formal alliances” a group of countries with similar concerns will “collectively be heard loud and clear when the talks begin”.

“We . . . need to reinforce that we are absolutely not alone when it comes to the trading impact of Brexit.”

Other countries that are seen to be sympathetic to this approach are Sweden, Estonia and Germany. However, it is acknowledged that Germany also has far wider concerns.

Third country

While a future trade deal between Britain and the EU cannot be legally signed until Brexit takes effect and the UK becomes a “third country” in 2019, the broad outline of the future relationship can take place alongside exit talks.

The draft negotiating guidelines issued by Donald Tusk, the European Council president, say that an “overall understanding” of the future relationship can be agreed in the second phase of talks.

This is dependent on “sufficient progress” being made in the first phase, which will focus on the divorce bill and providing legal clarity to EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa.

Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark believe agreement on the methodology of how to calculate the divorce bill – rather than agreement on the exact amount itself – should provide the “sufficient progress” outlined by Mr Tusk.

Similar outlook

Mr Kenny told the Dáil this week that Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark are the “three countries that are indicated to be the most adversely affected by Brexit”.

Contact has been ongoing between the three countries at official level, according to sources. Denmark and the Netherlands have been “natural allies” to Ireland on a range of issues in the EU, and have a similar outlook on trade and competitiveness.

The meeting of the three prime ministers is, however, an acknowledgment of a “new departure for everyone”.

“The British would have been in that group,” one source said, adding that the three countries would have shared a view with the UK on the importance of trade and competitiveness.

Mr Kenny will use the mini-summit to again highlight specific Irish concerns, such as the Border and the Common Travel Area.

The future of the Border with Northern Ireland cannot be settled until the future trading relationship between the UK and EU is broadly agreed, a source added.