Taoiseach reaffirms pledge to protect North in Brexit talks

At Ireland Funds event in London Enda Kenny warns a hard Border is ‘unacceptable’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Reuters/Michael Kooren

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Reuters/Michael Kooren

 

The Taoiseach has told an audience in London that the Government will seek to protect the interests of Northern Ireland, warning that a hard Border was unacceptable.

Mr Kenny was addressing the Ireland Funds of Great Britain’s London city lunch a day after the Conservative manifesto confirmed that Theresa May will take Britain out of the EU customs union as well as the single market.

“My Government has sought to protect the interests of the island as a whole in its extensive preparatory work on Brexit and will continue to advocate very strongly for Northern Ireland’s interests to be protected. But it is important to recognise that the UK leaving the EU changes the context and presents very real challenges to us on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“Any prospect of a hard Border is one that we, quite simply, cannot countenance.”

Mr Kenny did not speak to reporters during what is likely to be his last visit to Britain as Taoiseach, and which included a visit to the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.

At the fundraising lunch in support of projects throughout the island of Ireland, he praised the role of the Ireland Funds in what he called the maturing of the relationship between Britain and Ireland.

“Of course, it is the very closeness of that British-Irish relationship that makes Brexit such a complex and difficult proposition for Ireland. That is why the Irish Government has been so pro-active in its approach to the forthcoming negotiations. We have been very clear in our commitment to EU membership, which is undoubtedly the best course for Ireland, while fully respecting the outcome of the UK referendum,” he said.

“But while Britain and Ireland are taking different paths in terms of EU membership, we are also firmly committed to ensuring that our strong and unique relationship will remain constant. These two things should not be regarded as mutually exclusive.”