German media sympathetic to Irish Brexit fears

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says ‘people will not accept the return of a hard Border’

In private, Berlin officials insist they are well informed about Irish concerns and will work to give them due prominence in the difficult divorce talks ahead. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

In private, Berlin officials insist they are well informed about Irish concerns and will work to give them due prominence in the difficult divorce talks ahead. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told German media that the Irish people will never accept a hard post-Brexit Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

His remarks were part of a series of German newspaper and radio reports in recent days, highlighting particular Irish concerns raised by Britain’s EU departure.

The media reports explain to German audiences from an Irish perspective the economic fears and peace process risks should full Border checks return to what, in future, will be the EU’s outer western wall.

“The citizens will not accept the return of a hard Border in Ireland,” said Mr Kenny to the leading Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) daily.

Saying he “didn’t like but accepted” the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Taoiseach warned of incalculable risks for 50,000 cross-Border commuters and trade ties with Ireland’s larger neighbour worth €1 billion weekly. To speak nothing, he said, of the risks to the fragile peace process in the North.

“Too often the peace is seen as a given,” he added.

His Government was anxious to dispel any doubts about the Republic’s commitment to the EU, Mr Kenny said. It was working pro-actively to woo London companies, and EU agencies, seeking a new home within the bloc.

“We have applied for the European banking regulator and European medicines agency to be relocated from London to Ireland,” he said, adding that Ireland offered London-based banks the guarantee of single market access and qualified employees they would soon need.

Publicity blitz

His interview with German media outlets is part of a recent publicity blitz by the Government and mirrors intense private diplomatic contacts between Dublin and Berlin.

After last year’s Brexit vote, Mr Kenny was quick to visit chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and explain Dublin’s concerns. She was equivocal in her public remarks about Ireland’s concerns, reflecting her insistence that negotiations can only begin when London triggers the article 50 exit procedure.

In private, however, Berlin officials insist they are well informed about Irish concerns and will work to give them due prominence in the difficult divorce talks ahead.

All German media reports have been hugely sympathetic to Ireland’s concerns but pick up on a pessimistic mood on the island. Minister of State Eoghan Murphy said fears in Dublin are growing of a “hard, disorderly Brexit” while ESRI economist Edgar Morgenroth told multiple outlets how he feared Brexit talks with Brussels will “fail” with potentially disastrous consequences for Irish business.

Several German media outlets have looked, too, at the new divisions Brexit has caused north of the Border. In Derry, bus company owner Jennifer McKeever said she did not believe London’s claims that the future Border will not be manned.

“How can there be no hard Border when so much of the referendum rhetoric was about control over immigration?” she asked Germany’s Deutschlandfunk, the equivalent of RTÉ Radio 1. “We don’t understand how one can then simply head over the Border in 15 minutes, as you did 15 minutes ago, without noticing it.”

As an uncertain year looms, Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes told the FAZ that Ireland wanted more than just sympathy from the EU in the case of a Brexit disaster.

“Ireland requires compensation from other member states,” he said.