All-island forum to be held in Dublin next month as hard Brexit looms

Budget 2017 will include measures to deal with risks posed by UK exit from EU

All-island forum to be held in Dublin next month as hard Brexit looms

Taoiseach Enda Kenny | File photo: RollingNews.ie

The government is to hold an all-island forum on Brexit next month, it has been confirmed.

The meeting will be hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan in Dublin on November 2nd.

Invitations will be extended to a range of civic society groups and businesses, as well as representatives of the main political parties on the island.

Enda Kenny said his all-island dialogue is not about just politicians.

He explained that organisations such as business organisations, trade unions, voluntary NGOs and other groups will also feel the impact of Brexit.

Budget 2017 will also include measures to deal with the specific risks of a British exit from the EU.

Today's announcement comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May revealed Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March, kicking off the two-year countdown to the UK’s departure.

A so-called "Great Repeal Bill" is also expected to be introduced next year to scrap the legislation that took Britain into Europe 44 years ago.

In a statement, Mr Kenny said trade, the Northern Irish peace process and the common travel area were among the government’s top priorities as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

"Now that we have clarity from Prime Minister May regarding the timetable, we will intensify our engagement and preparation for the negotiations,” he said.   

"Ireland faces unique challenges from Brexit, not least given the all-island issues that arise.  

"I will continue to engage with Northern Ireland party leaders on the range of issues involved and I welcome the commitment of the Executive parties to working through the issues in the context of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC)."

He was speaking after presenting cabinet with a memo outlining the government’s strategy in responding to the UK's EU referendum result. 

A new cabinet committee has been established to oversee the government's overall response to Brexit.

'Grave concern'

In an interview yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan warned that the reintroduction of a hard border on the island of Ireland cannot be ruled out.

Mr Flanagan told Newstalk Breakfast that the possible reimposition of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic was a "matter of grave concern" to the government.

He said he had impressed upon his EU colleagues the "unique situation" in Ireland and "the fact that we cannot go back to the old days of a heavily fortified border".

UK ministers Boris Johnson, David Davis and James Brokenshire have expressed an "understanding" of the Irish government’s position, he added.

"I’m not discouraged by what I’m hearing…They don’t want a return to the borders of the past," he said of his discussions with British lawmakers.

However, Mr Flanagan cautioned that a more visible border may still be have to be put in place by 2019.

"That scenario cannot be ruled out," he told the programme.