Enda Kenny questions whether British ‘know what they want’

Former taoiseach says Ireland ‘has a lot on its side’ in rare public comments

Enda O’Coineen and former taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of Mr O’Coineen’s book Journey to the Edge. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Enda O’Coineen and former taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of Mr O’Coineen’s book Journey to the Edge. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny has questioned whether the British government “know what they want”, as the deadline to agree a Brexit deal by the end of the month approaches.

Following the result of the Brexit referendum, there was an acceptance there would be no changes to the Belfast Agreement, the Common Travel Area or any return to a hard border on the island of Ireland, Mr Kenny said, in rare public commentary since he left office two years ago.

“That was accepted and understood by David Cameron, accepted and understood by Theresa May, accepted and understood by her government, but not by the House of Commons, in which sovereignty is vested,” Mr Kenny said.

“That exposes a different legal argument about how far you can take that sovereignty, because you don’t want and nobody would expect the House of Commons to pass laws that would clearly be against the general benefit of society.”

The UK is due to leave the European Union by October 31st, with prime minister Boris Johnson insisting his government will not agree to a further extension.

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The Brexit negotiations were now in “an area of real politics” but one where Ireland “have a lot on our side”, Mr Kenny said.

Intensity of discussion

Speaking in the RDS at the launch of Sunday Business Post owner Enda O’Coineen’s book Journey to the Edge, the former Fine Gael leader said European solidarity had been “exceptionally strong” during the talks.

“I support the Government in what they are doing,” Mr Kenny said. “There is an intensity of negotiation and discussion going on about this. We know what we want. Does everybody else know what they want?”

He said if a Brexit deal was to be agreed there would need to be “some really serious discussions about the practicality” of proposals laid out by Mr Johnson on Wednesday.

The UK prime minister’s plans would see the island of Ireland become an all-island regulatory zone covering all goods, eliminating the need for regulatory checks on goods moving north and south of the Border.

The proposals were sold as a means of avoiding the controversial backstop, opposed by Brexiteers as trapping the UK in the EU single market. The European Commission and the Government said they would engage with the proposals over the coming days.

“If we are to retain our good friendship with the United Kingdom, which we want ... some serious discussion has to be had over the next two weeks,” Mr Kenny said.

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