Merkel ‘most encouraging and supportive’ of Ireland’s Brexit concerns
Kenny says Merkel aware of Ireland’s wish to balance EU membership with close UK ties
Enda Kenny and German leader Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday. The Taoiseach said Dr Merkel was aware of Irish concerns to ensure a “seamless Border” as part of talks on a future EU-UK trading relationship
During their meeting Mr Kenny said he was heartened by the German leader’s grasp of the specific details of Ireland’s Brexit challenge, to balance its EU membership with a wish for ongoing close ties with Britain.
“She did ask quite a lot of questions in respect of understanding that we cannot return to a hard Border because of the sectarian element that applied there, and the violence that followed the militarisation of customs posts,” said Mr Kenny.
He said she was also aware of Irish concerns to ensure a “seamless Border” as part of talks on a future EU-UK trading relationship.
In brief statements on Thursday, Dr Merkel said Germany would help Ireland “as much as possible” in upcoming talks given how it would be “particularly affected” by the UK’s departure.
In the talks Mr Kenny raised the Government’s wish for any final Brexit agreement to guarantee Northern Ireland’s right to EU membership in the case of a united Ireland. Irish officials wish to copper-fasten existing guarantees in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which cited the precedent of East Germany’s automatic accession to the EU on German unification in 1990.
“That is the precedent that I used and… she understands that very clearly,” he said.
“We are not asking them [EU] for anything that isn’t already there...This is a different situation than applies to Gibraltar and to northern Cyprus.”
Mr Kenny’s Berlin visit was a high point of Irish lobbying work ahead of the April 29th European Council meeting, when leaders will vote on a negotiating mandate for the EU in Brexit talks.
A draft negotiating text says ensuring Northern Ireland’s peace is “paramount”, calls for “flexible and imaginative solutions” to avoid a return to a hard Border, and urges the EU to recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements, which include the free travel area.
Mr Kenny stressed in Berlin that any deal for the North must be compliant with EU law and that, while the European Commission would lead talks with the UK, Ireland’s place at the negotiating table, figuratively speaking, was alongside the rest of the EU.
The latter is a bid to placate German concerns that UK negotiators may try to split member states in talks, in particular over London’s wish for talks on its future relationship with the EU to run in parallel with separation talks – a position opposed by Berlin.
Gone down well
Berlin-based policy analysts who met Mr Kenny in Berlin on Friday said Dublin’s energetic sense of ownership of looming Brexit talks had gone down well in the chancellery.
“Merkel is hunting for people to be constructive and engaged in this process and people she can trust, and the Irish are trusted,” said Almut Möller of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
”The Irish are so well prepared and they know the British so well, so have turned a potential vulnerability into an asset, which is smart.”