Brexit: Kenny says Government is prepared to ‘greatest extent possible’

Dáil is recalled for Monday to discuss Britain’s decision to leave the European Union

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks during a press conference in Dublin on Friday after Britain voted to leave the European Union in an historic referendum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks during a press conference in Dublin on Friday after Britain voted to leave the European Union in an historic referendum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The Government has prepared to “the greatest extent possible” for the British decision to withdraw from the European Union, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Mr Kenny also stressed that “Ireland will, of course, remain a member of the European Union” - which he said is “profoundly in our national interest”.

The Dáil is to be recalled on Monday to discuss the fallout from the Brexit referendum, Mr Kenny confirmed.

The Taoiseach also said the decision on when Britain should formally begin the process of negotiating an exit from the EU - invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - is a matter for the UK government.

Outgoing British prime minister David Cameron said on Friday morning the negotiations will be a matter for his successor, who should be in place by October.

Leave campaigner Boris Johnson has also said there is no need to rush into triggering Article 50.

The European Commission, however, said the process must begin as soon as possible.

The issue is expected to feature at an EU summit next week, which will discuss the Brexit fallout.

At a press conference, Mr Kenny supported Mr Cameron’s position and said the negotiations must be given “breathing space”.

“I respect that fully I support in the case of the comments made by the British prime minster,” Mr Kenny said.

He is also due to speak to Mr Cameron, as well as other European leaders, by phone this afternoon.

The Taoiseach said he is “very sorry” that Britain has chose to leave the EU, adding that “the EU is better with Britain as a leading member and that Britain and Ireland have always worked together very well, as equal partners, within the EU”.

“I want to assure the Irish public that we have prepared to the greatest extent possible for this eventuality. There will be no immediate change to the free flow of people, goods and services between our islands.”

The main concerns of the Government on Brexit relate “the potential impacts for trade and the economy, for Northern Ireland, for the common travel area and for the European Union itself”.

“We have engaged in detailed contingency planning for the possibility of this result. Today at Government, we agreed to publish a summary of the key actions we will now take to address the contingencies arising from the UK’s decision. Our primary objective remains to protect and advance this country’s interests.”

He said last week’s summer economic statement includes an assessment of the potential economic impact of a UK vote to leave the EU.

“Ireland is a strong, open and competitive economy - our ongoing economic recovery is testament to our resilience.

“In the immediate term, the Minister for Finance and his officials are in close contact with the Central Bank, the NTMA and our international partners to ensure that any short-term market volatility is carefully managed. They will continue to monitor and assess developments.”

The implications of the referendum result on Northern Ireland and on North-South relations “will require careful consideration”.

“These will be a particular priority for the Irish Government. We will approach these issues in the same spirit of partnership that has underpinned the peace process and has transformed relationships on this island since the Good Friday Agreement.

“I welcome the prime minister’s clear statement that Northern Ireland’s interests will be fully reflected in the British government’s negotiating position.”

He said he will meet with colleagues from the Northern Ireland Executive in just over a week’s time to have discussions on “how to best approach these new circumstances - acting in the best interests of all of the people of Ireland, North and South”.

Mr Kenny added, however, that there is no current case for a border poll on a united Ireland as advocated by Sinn Féin today.

“In the medium term a related concern is that of the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland,” the Taoiseach said.

“For our part, the Irish Government will do our utmost in upcoming discussions to maintain the Common Travel Area and minimise any possible disruptions to the flow of people, goods and services between these islands.

“We are also acutely aware of the concerns which will be felt across the Irish community in Britain. I want to assure them that the Irish Government will also have their interests in our thinking as we approach the forthcoming negotiations. It is important to remember that the position of Irish citizens within the EU will be unaffected.”

He stressed that Ireland will remain a member of the EU and said that “strong bonds of partnership with all the other member states, and with the European institutions, that will continue to serve us well” had been built up by 40 years of membership.

“There will be a discussion of the next steps at the meeting of the European Council next week. I will clearly set out our national position at that meeting, and I will ensure that our particular national interests are fully respected as we prepare to enter the next phase of negotiations.

“These negotiations may not commence for some months yet, and will take a considerable amount of time to complete. In that regard, it is important to stress that Britain remains a member of the European Union until negotiations have been concluded. We must take this breathing space. and use it wisely.”

He also sent his best wishes to Mr Cameron, who announced his intention to resign this morning.

“We have worked closely together at a time of unprecedented warmth in relations between our two countries. He has taken a decision this morning, which he believes is in the interests of his country.

“I wish him all the very best for the future. Finally I’d like to reiterate that while Ireland’s future lies within the European Union, Ireland’s strong and close relationship with the UK will remain.”