The Taoiseach says he has agreed the benefits of the common travel area with Downing Street
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that although it remains unclear what Brexit will bring, he does not expect any return to a hard border in Ireland.
Enda Kenny was speaking to Newstalk’s Sarah Carey in wide-ranging end of year interview for Talking Point.
Mr Kenny discussed everything from The Pope, Catholicism and his future as leader of Fine Gael, to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the White House.
Mr Kenny said there has been a wave of populism across Europe and America but said the democratic decisions of the people have to be respected.
He said that Leinster House and Downing Street are in agreement that there will be no return to hard border and the benefits of the common travel area between Britain and Ireland will remain.
The Taoiseach said that until the British government makes it clear what they hope to achieve with the Brexit process there can be no negotiation - but warned that when negotiations begin, Ireland will be “on the European team because we are staying with Europe.”
“Because of our connections with Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom we are in very particular place and we have to get this right,” he said.
“I have already agreed after having visited Downing Street that in regards to Northern Ireland there will be no return to a hard border.”
He said that after meeting the British Prime Minister Theresa May he had also agreed that the benefits of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK should remain following the UK’s divorce from the EU.
“There are a very substantial number of English people living here we want those retain the rights for them and we want to retain our rights for Irish people living in England,” he said.
He said he respects Mrs May after meeting her a number of times but warned that, “until we know what decision we have to make we can’t negotiate.”
“We will be staying on the side of the European Union,” he said. “We have very close relationships with London and with Belfast, we want to retain those.”
“We joined the same day as Britain back in the seventies and this is the first time that a country has wished to leave,” he said.
“It hasn’t happened before so it is very a major issue.”
Mr Kenny said he intends to be sitting as Taoiseach when next Christmas rolls around.
“Of course I do and I intend to send out the same message and I hope that the message from this year will be followed through,” he said.