UK should be ‘given time’, says Taoiseach as EU leaders meet

Fianna Fáil says Government needs to include Opposition in upcoming negotiations

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the UK should be given time to elect a new Prime Minister before triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which is the formal mechanism for a country to leave the European Union.

On his way into a meeting of EU heads of government in Brussels today that included British Prime Minister David Cameron the Taoiseach took a noticeably softer line than many other leaders.

“There should be some little time given for the Conservative Party to elect a new Prime Minister,” Mr Kenny told journalists.

“That has been brought forward by a month and I think that is good. That is going to give a sense of stability before the triggering of Article 50 and obviously the new Prime Minister, he or she will have to determine what their thinking is,” he said.


Mr Kenny said he was happy to accept British Prime Minister David Cameron’s view that the triggering of Article 50 would be taken by a new Prime Minister.

“I note that they are bringing that forward by a month and that is good. It gives that stability between now and that decision being made in respect of article 50 and allows everybody else to focus on the issues that are going to arise here.”

Mr Kenny added, however, that free movement of people was a fundamental principle of the European Union, as was free movement of goods and services.

“That has always been a cornerstone principle of the union for very many years and we stand by that,” he said.

Mr Kenny said that at the meeting of EU leaders he was going to make the case for Ireland’s national interest here in terms of the economy, in the common travel area and peace process in Northern Ireland.

“Obviously the discussions that will take place eventually in respect of the relationship between the EU and the UK would be central to that and obviously we want to be party to those discussions and those negotiations,” he said.

“I will articulate and our people will articulate very strongly what our vital national interests here are.”

Mr Kenny said that the first thing that had to happen was the election of a new British Prime Minister.

“They may need some short time but you can’t have a drift into uncertainty here. So stability and certainty are very important in terms of the economics and also in terms of the politics.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micháel Martin, who was also in Brussels Tuesday, said the essential role for the Irish government was to protect the Irish national interest and the wellbeing of the Irish people on the island of Ireland.

“That’s critical. We will support them in that regard. Procedurally things should go in accordance with European law,” said Mr Martin.

Mr Martin also called on the Government to fully involve the Opposition in the forthcoming negotiations.

“We are calling for almost a permanent consultative framework with all of the parties in the Dáil . We should all wear the green jersey here. We will use our contacts in our group and our contacts across the European Union to advocate for Ireland.”

He was speaking on his way into a meeting of the ALDE group in central Brussels, the centre-left political group to which Fianna Fáil is aligned in the European Union.

Mr Martin said: “Space for reflection should be given. Notification should be triggered in October , and negotiations should then being with the new British Prime Minister.

“Our objective has to be, in my view, to endeavour to have a relationship that facilitates access to the European market, that will be the critical point, because a benign relationship between Britain and Europe will ultimately be good for Ireland.”

Asked whas there a risk that Ireland could become too vociferous a supporter of Britain, he replied: “There will be a difficult navigational challenge for Ireland there…

“I accept that access to the single market must carry obligations in terms of freedom of movement and the financial contribution. The British Govt at some stage is going to have to swallow hard on that.”

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent