Kenny discusses Brexit with Spanish prime minister

Mariano Rajoy ‘well aware’ of circumstances pertaining to Ireland, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has sought to convince the Spanish government of Ireland’s need to be treated as a “unique” case with regard to Brexit.

The potential effect of the UK's exit from the European Union was a main topic of conversation when Mr Kenny met Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Spain on Thursday.

In a joint press conference, Mr Kenny said the Spanish leader "is well aware, well acquainted with the unique set of circumstances that apply in Ireland.

"He's well aware that the peace process has been supported by Europe and America for the last 20 years."


Mr Kenny stressed the complex nature of the Belfast Agreement and how it requires international support. Mr Rajoy, he added, "is fully supportive of that as he always has been."


The Taoiseach said Ireland and Spain share a similar vision. “We won’t let go of the essential principles of the European project, such as indivisibility of the four freedoms of the interior market and nor will we renounce our pro-European vocation,” he said.

While bilateral relations are strong, with 1.7 million Irish visiting Spain last year, Madrid's attitude to an all-island Brexit solution could arguably be complicated by territorial challenges of its own. The north-eastern region of Catalonia is pushing for independence and wants to stage a referendum on the issue later this year, against the wishes of the Rajoy administration.

Although the Spanish leader highlighted the need to consolidate the Northern Ireland peace process, he would not be drawn specifically on whether he acknowledged Ireland's status as a "unique" country with regard to Brexit.

Nonetheless, an Irish Government spokesman later said Mr Rajoy had accepted that to be the case.

"We're talking about a territory that at this moment is in a peace process that has the support of the EU and the United States and so my position is that we should keep helping it in the future," Mr Rajoy said.


Explaining that he expects the Brexit panorama to become clearer following British prime minister Theresa May’s scheduled visit to Ireland later this month, Mr Kenny said he hopes the impact is minimal after article 50 is triggered. “I would like to think that you could have as close a situation to what you have now in terms of opportunity and trade, in particular, applying from then on,” he said.

Regarding the uncertainty in Northern Ireland following Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy first minister, the Taoiseach said that if an election did take place, it could coincide with the triggering of the Brexit clause.

He also expressed concern about the effect the current political turmoil could have on the peace process.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain