Kenny’s Brexit speech begins to fill in the blanks

Analysis: Taoiseach reminds the UK the State will be on EU’s side of the table in exit talks

‘We must remain at the heart of Europe and open to the world  … We must protect the hard-won peace on our island,’ Taoiseach Enda Kenny said. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

‘We must remain at the heart of Europe and open to the world … We must protect the hard-won peace on our island,’ Taoiseach Enda Kenny said. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

No, we are not going to follow the UK out of the EU. No question. “Our values are European values”,” the foundation of Ireland’s prosperity and the bedrock of our modern society is our membership of the European Union”, and our future and economy are tied up with Europe’s, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted in his Mansion House speech to the Institute for International and European Affairs on Wednesday .

“We must remain at the heart of Europe and open to the world … We must protect the hard-won peace on our island,” he said.

If our commitment to the EU is resolute, he said in outlining Ireland’s Brexit priorities - and reminded partners that Ireland will be on the EU side of the table in negotiations with the UK - there was also in the Taoiseach’s speech a firm demand on those partners that they must assist us in honouring existing agreements between the two countries, notably the Belfast Agreement.

Extra mile

No question of returning to “to the days of a hard border that we knew only too well. Or indeed create a new one in the future.”

And implicitly acknowledging the challenge involved in the aspiration, he appealed to fellow heads of government to go the extra mile: “This is a political matter, not a legal or technical matter. It will have to be solved by political leadership.”

Fill out the detail

Kenny’s speech rehearsed much that was already familiar about Ireland’s case but also began to fill out the detail of the implications sector by sector and gave a strong sense of the diplomatic offensive already underway from Iveagh House.

Our purpose was to help make the case for the softest form of Brexit possible, “the closest possible economic and trading relationship between the EU and the UK, even if it will not now involve UK membership of the Single Market,” Mr Kenny said.

Capital plan

In two areas he broke new ground – in giving “our country the capacity to absorb and respond to any economic shocks in the future, not least the impact of Brexit” the Government would work to strengthen domestic industry and the economy, he said, and specifically would work on a new 10-year national capital plan.

Financial assistance

And he said that Ireland would be seeking financial assistance from our partners to meet the asymmetric shock that Brexit would represent to our economy.

“We will also make a strong case at EU level that Ireland will require support that recognises where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy.”

Whether that will be forthcoming is another matter. But such aid might be included as part of the bill in the divorce settlement that the EU and UK will negotiate first when article 50 is triggered.

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