With the opening of negotiations now hardly 12 weeks away, and over six months after the shock British referendum result, Flanagan has revealed the full extent of the Irish government’s frustration.
Andy jalil –
With their historical, cultural and trade relations with Britain, it is of little surprise that Ireland is anxiously waiting for the Brexit plans to be revealed. Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan has bluntly told the UK government it must end delays in revealing its negotiating plans to leave the EU.
With the opening of negotiations now hardly 12 weeks away, and over six months after the shock British referendum result, Flanagan has revealed the full extent of the Irish government’s frustration at delays by Prime Minister Theresa May and her ministers.
He said: “Six months after the referendum, I regret that we don’t have a comprehensive plan from Britain. I believe it’s imperative that early in the new year such a plan takes shape, that we have sight of it and that we know what it is.”
The Irish government will, however, feel some relief that it may not be much longer before they know about Britain’s plans after May said on Sky TV on Sunday that she was very clear on her Brexit aims and that she would set out details of her plans “in the coming weeks.”
Flanagan said that his colleagues had been stressing since the June 23 referendum result that the “bond between Ireland and the UK is unique in Europe”. He said that there was growing acceptance across the other EU states that this was the case.
“But that is another reason why we need to see the plan from Britain for managing Brexit,” he added. He further said that after extensive consultations with counterparts in London, and across the rest of the EU, there were huge problems with the UK keeping free trade status after Brexit, without immigration concessions.
He said: “My objective, and the objective of this government, is to help keep the UK as close to the European Union as possible. But the single market versus freedom of movement is very challenging.”
The Foreign Minister also said “soundings” at this stage indicated that, even if Britain left the border-free single market, it could still stay in the EU’s custom union. That would be a boon to continuing trade between Ireland and the UK, worth a cumulative 1.6 billion euros per week.
Everyone associated with the upcoming UK-EU divorce talks expects negotiations to open by the end of March, as the British Prime Minister has said. The main process is expected to take two years, but working out even more serious details could take longer. Flanagan again expressed that the status of the North (Northern Ireland, part of the UK) and the insistence that there can be no return of the Border (control) between Northern Ireland and Ireland were central to the Irish government’s concerns.
“It’s far too early to be talking about cameras on the Border or any other such details.” He was equally insistent that Ireland would approach the negotiations on the firm assumption that the country remained a full EU member state. Adding: “We are, and we will be, ‘team EU’”, he said.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is regarded as the right person — with party leadership challenges from other candidates — to represent the government at the time of the UK-EU negotiations. He should be under no pressure to step aside as he is the “best qualified” to lead Ireland through the Brexit negotiations, the Public Expenditure Minister, Paschal Donohoe, said.
In a clear warning to those harbouring leadership ambitions, Donohoe said Kenny should not bow to calls for him to reveal his retirement plans. Kenny has indicated that he will not lead the party into the next election but wants to be Taoiseach (Prime Minister) when Pope Francis visits Ireland in August 2018.
There is speculation some backbench MP’s will move on Kenny after he returns from the St Patrick’s Day (March 17) official visit to the United States.
Donohoe said: “The moment a Taoiseach determines the time at which he is going to go has a massive effect on the ability of the government to function.”
He stressed Kenny was the “best qualified” person to lead the country into two years of Brexit negotiations and said the decision-making process will be “very, very complicated and political.” His comments will dampen the expectation of leadership challengers as Donohoe is increasingly influential within the governing party.