May’s Brexit speech brings ‘clarity in number of areas’, Kenny says

Taoiseach says State will contribute ‘very strongly’ to talks with EU on UK’s departure

The statement on Brexit by British prime minister Theresa May brought “clarity in a number of areas”, the Taoiseach has said. Photograph: Sergio Barrenechea/EPA.

The statement on Brexit by British prime minister Theresa May brought “clarity in a number of areas”, the Taoiseach has said. Photograph: Sergio Barrenechea/EPA.

 

The statement on Brexit by British prime minister Theresa May has brought “clarity in a number of areas”, the Taoiseach has said.

Enda Kenny told the Dáil that Ms May’s statement was the start of the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

Europe is now going to have to respond to the statement made by the prime minister today,” he added.

Mr Kenny noted that the prime minister had included in her speech a number of issues he had discussed with her by telephone on Monday.

In particular, these were the common travel area and her willingness to look at the most effective outcome, in a practical sense, of the Border situation.

It was known, said Mr Kenny, that there was a two-year period for negotiation from when the UK triggered article 50. This is expected to happen in March.

“In discussions with her yesterday, I mentioned specifically the fact that this may not be concluded in that time and, if it is not, there will have to be a process of transition,” Mr Kenny added.

Mr Kenny said Ireland would contribute “very strongly” to the Brexit negotiations on the basis of being an EU member.

‘Negative clarity’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he did not think the Government should be welcoming “a negative clarity” which was the essence of the prime minister’s speech.

More than clarity was needed, he said, adding that real signs of a sensible and logical engagement with Europe were required.

He said it was very clear the needs of Britain were Ms May’s number one priority.

“She will speak softly to the Taoiseach, and Britain is speaking softly, but they will behave and act differently,” Mr Martin added.

“It will act in its own interests, first and foremost, and I do not get the sense that we are up there as high as some people might diplomatically like to articulate.”

He said he had a real sense they were heading down a very difficult road and the hence the need for Ireland to start arguing robustly to protect its interests, jobs and companies, and give them the capacity to move beyond a post-Brexit scenario.

Mr Kenny said everybody, including himself, had constantly repeated it would be important for Britain to set out what kind of relationship it wanted with the future EU.

“The British government was never going to look for anything other than the best deal it could get,” he added.

Mr Kenny said the EU, with 27 countries and a population of almost 500 million people, had to look at its own future and decide what decisions it wanted to make for the future of the union for the next 10, 15 or 20 years, including where the future lay.

He said Ms May had referred specifically to the friendship and ties, over many generations, between Ireland and Britain. She had referred specifically to the retention of the common travel area and border issues.