Taoiseach to announce leadership plans once Brexit guidelines agreed

Enda Kenny held a meeting with the Dutch and Danish prime ministers in the Hague today

Taoiseach to announce leadership plans once Brexit guidelines agreed

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, right, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Hague, Netherlands, 21-04-2017. Image: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

The Taoiseach has said he will make his intentions regarding his leadership of Fine Gael "very clear" as soon as the ground rules for the upcoming Brexit negotiations have been put in place.

Mr Kenny held a meeting to discuss Brexit with the Dutch and Danish Prime Ministers in the Hague today.

The EU negotiating guidelines could be agreed at an EU council meeting on Saturday week and the Taoiseach said he will make his “intentions very clear after that.”

Brexit effect

Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands are all heavily dependent on trade with the UK and expected to be the three countries hardest hit by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Today’s “informal talks” between Mr Kenny, Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen and their Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, were almost exclusively focused on Brexit.

Following the meeting, the Taoiseach said both leaders were fully aware of the specific challenges facing Ireland. 

He said the three discussed, “the question of the Irish border which is unique in terms of being the only land border within the European Union after Brexit is completed.”

“I have thanked both of them for their understanding of the particular issues that we have and that is reflected both in the document from the European Council and indeed from the European Parliament,” he said.

Mr Kenny again insisted that Ireland’s place, “remains and will remain at the very heart of Europe.”

“We have reiterated our very strong commitment obviously to the European Union and to the Eurozone,” he said.

“The participation and membership of Ireland in the European Union for all these years has been responsible for Ireland transforming itself from a very traditional, protected, introverted country many years ago, to being open to the world now.”

Mr Rasmussen said the three countries “have many common interests in the issues on the EU’s agenda” but warned that Brexit in particular will have consequences for all of us as well as for Britain.”

“Therefore it makes sense that we should discuss together how we safeguard our interests and get a divorce that is as smooth as possible,” he said.

British general election

Mr Kenny said he had spoken to the British Prime Minister Theresa May following her decision to hold a snap general election in June – adding the “as a politician” he could understand her reasons for doing so.

“I do think that if - as is expected - the prime minister gets an enhanced majority, it strengthens her position as prime minister in conducting the Brexit negotiations,” he said.

“Assuming the prime minister is re-elected - and in these days in politics it is very difficult to determine outcomes - from her point of view, she wants a clearer mandate.

“From our point of view, she will be negotiating with 27 countries who will stand together very strongly and very clearly.”

He claimed Mrs May had already made it “very clear” that she is not aiming to negotiate on the basis of a hard Brexit.