Enda Kenny to meet Angela Merkel on Brexit

Taoiseach to discuss Irish concerns with German chancellor ahead of EU summit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last July. File photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last July. File photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next Thursday to discuss the European Union’s Brexit strategy and Ireland’s concerns over the impact on trade, the peace process and the Border.

The bilateral meeting is their first since Mr Kenny’s visit to Germany last July following Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

It will launch the next stage of the Government’s lobbying effort ahead of the EU’s emergency summit on April 29th to agree a Brexit negotiating mandate.

After securing explicit references to Irish concerns in the EU’s draft blueprint for the negotiations, Government officials are cautious about how much explicit support for the State they can expect from Ms Merkel.

“We are all part of one negotiating bloc and looking for concessions from single European capitals is not the approach here,” said a Government spokesman.

“This is about all member states understanding exactly where we are coming from and doubling down on our position.”

Irish concerns

After nine months of lobbying by Irish diplomats in all EU capitals, Berlin officials say they understand Irish concerns.

However, unlike senior EU officials in Brussels, Berlin has so far declined to back specific Government demands.

These include a demand that any final Brexit deal carry over a clause in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which would allow Northern Ireland access to the EU in the case of a united Ireland.

During Mr Kenny’s visit last July, Ms Merkel said Ireland’s specific concerns were “absolutely important, particularly for peace in the region”.

However, she also said the details would have to be clarified in Brexit talks, where “the Irish voice will be heard as much as anyone else’s”.

 

Government officials agree that special arrangements for Ireland can exist only as part of a broader deal between the EU and the UK.

They say Mr Kenny’s meeting with Ms Merkel, coming so soon after the UK began its EU departure, reflects not only the importance of Germany to any final Brexit agreement, but also the close relationship between two of Europe’s longest-serving political leaders.

Given domestic pressures on Mr Kenny to stand down, Thursday may be the last one-on-one talk between the two leaders.

As well as meeting Ms Merkel, Mr Kenny will hold a round-table with members of German business groups and attend an Enterprise Ireland event in Frankfurt during his visit to Germany.