Theresa May to meet Taoiseach amid growing Brexit fears

British leader is visiting Dublin as concerns increase over UK’s plan for leaving the EU

British prime minister Theresa May is in Dublin to meet the Taoiseach at a time of growing concern in Ireland about the impact of a hard Brexit on the Border and on Ireland/UK trade. Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy reports.

 

British prime minister Theresa May meets the Taoiseach in Dublin on Monday amid growing concern in Government about the impact of a hard Brexit on the Border and on trade between Ireland and Britain.

The two leaders will discuss the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland, the border and economic ties between Ireland and the UK.

They are also likely to discuss the breakdown of power-sharing in Stormont, and the prospects for its return after the assembly elections in early March.

The two leaders will hold a joint press conference at around 5pm in Government Buildings, where they are sure to be questioned on the fallout from the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and citizens from seven Muslim majority countries entering the US.

The move has caused protests all over the world and has led to calls for Mr Kenny to abandon his St Patrick’s Day trip to meet the US President.

Ms May is facing demands that she withdraw an invitation to Mr Trump to make a state visit to the UK.

The meeting comes two weeks after Ms May said Britain would leave the single market and key parts of the customs union when it withdraws from the EU.

Ms May has identified maintaining the Common Travel Area as a key objective in Brexit negotiations and the Government is confident that there is broad support in other EU member states for that position.

The prime minister’s decision to leave the customs union’s common commercial policy and common external tariff, however, has made some form of customs control along the Border difficult to avoid.

The EU is responsible for agreeing trade policy on behalf of all its member states and there is little enthusiasm in Brussels for a special trade arrangement between Britain and Ireland.

‘Frictionless’

The focus for British and Irish negotiators is likely to be on ensuring that any customs controls on the Border will be as “frictionless” and unobtrusive as possible.

Last night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the prime minister was aware of the concerns the Government had about the impact of Brexit on the island.

He said Ms May’s visit afforded an opportunity to hear her priorities and to discuss her response to the difficulties Ireland faced.

“Our priorities are well known to the British prime minister and I believe it’s important that [today] we hear her view on what again is a great challenge to the island of Ireland with particular reference to our economy, our trade with the United Kingdom and of course the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process and the need to ensure, in the context of the forthcoming negotiations that the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is fully adhered to,” Mr Flanagan said.

Before travelling to Dublin, Ms May will host a meeting in Cardiff of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) which co-ordinates the relationships between Downing Street and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No veto

Britain’s supreme court ruled last week that the devolved administrations have no veto over the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts formal Brexit negotiations.

Ahead of the meeting in Cardiff, however, the prime minister said she remained committed to listening to the views of legislators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversations and I hope we will have further constructive discussions today,” she said.

“The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, and the UK government has a responsibility to deliver on that mandate and secure the right deal for the whole of the UK.

“We all have a part to play in providing certainty and leadership so that together we can make a success of the opportunities ahead.”