EU should prioritise concerns of small countries, says Kenny

Taoiseach discusses Brexit with leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands in the Hague

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged Europe to prioritise the concerns of small countries which will be adversely affected by Brexit when the negotiations for Britain's departure from the EU begin.

Mr Kenny participated in a mini-summit in the Hague on Friday with the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, and the prime minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

"I came to the Hague to meet prime minister Rasmussen and prime minister Rutte because we have similar interests of a very common nature and we wanted those reflected in the ground rules being set out by the European Council, " he said.

Mr Rasmussen highlighted the issue of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland in his remarks after the three men met at the Catshuis, the Dutch prime minister's official residence, on Friday morning.


"The fact that the UK intends to leave the Customs Union risks a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy and a lot of barriers to trade. And we will need to lead with those issues including the particular problem which Ireland will be confronted with," Mr Rasmussen said.

He said he hoped “fair and pragmatic solutions” could be found in the course of the upcoming discussions.

‘Unified position’

Mr Rutte said the 27 European States should work “in consort and conjunction”, but added there had to be an understanding that some were facing more difficulties than others as a result of Brexit.

“As 27 we have to recognise that some of us are impacted even more than some of the others in terms of direct economic threats that are coming because of the Brexit happening,” Mr Rutte said.

“A small issue in the eyes of one country might be a big issue in the mindset, the eyes of another.”

Calling for a “unified position”, he said it was in the interest of all countries involved that a united stance was maintained throughout the upcoming negotiations.

Mr Rutte said there was an urgent need to clarify the status of EU citizens living in the UK and also the status of European businesses based there.

The talks should focus initially on border issues and financial matters, he said.

However, Mr Kenny was keen to stress that the three countries should “not be seen as some sort of breakaway group” within the Europe.

“You’re not talking about the birth of a new subsidiary of the European Council,” he added.

‘Exceptionally complicated’

Along with Mr Rutte and Mr Rasmussen, Mr Kenny said European states had to act as one. “It is of most importance that we stick together, the remaining 27 countries,” the Taoiseach said. Mr Kenny highlighted the Common Fisheries Policy as being “exceptionally complicated”.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny said he understood why British prime minister Theresa May had announced a snap general election, but added that it would cause "angst".

"I can understand as a politician why the prime minister would decide to seek a mandate from the electorates of the UK to strengthen her position as the British prime minister in entering into negotiations for the Brexit exit and beyond of the European Union, " he said.

"Obviously it's going to cause quite a deal of angst I would think, particularly in Scotland and there will be a different political impetus from Northern Ireland out of this."

The meeting was the latest in a series of Brexit-related engagements the Taoiseach is having with other EU leaders ahead of negotiations on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Mr Kenny said it was a matter for the British people how they decided to vote.

He said “in these days in politics it’s very difficult to determine outcomes” but assuming Ms May was re-elected she would be negotiating with 27 countries which would “stand together very strongly and very clearly”.

The agenda of the EU went beyond Brexit and other matters should not be derailed because Britain had triggered Article 50 in order to leave the union.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times