Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a special meeting of parliament today that the national interest would be his main concern in any negotiations concerning the UK’s exit from the EU, and that he did not expect an imminent formal withdrawal.
“I think that in other governments there is a full understanding that there has been a political earthquake in the UK, the consequences of which will take some time to work out.
“I expect that there will be broad consensus that we will need to await the entry into office of a new British prime minister before a formal exit notification can be made.”
Kenny announced the parliamentary recall after an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday following the result of the Brexit poll. He noted Ireland has more to lose than other EU members from a Brexit but said the government had drawn up contingency plans.
“The stakes have always been higher on this issue for Ireland than for any other EU member state,” he said.
“Our contingency management arrangements will prioritise the key political and strategic issues arising from the implications for Northern Ireland, the common travel area and the border.”
However, he also pointed out that detailed contingency planning would be “particularly challenging” because there is no clarity as yet on the precise arrangements nor the timescale of the UK’s withdrawal. Also, nobody knows what the new relationship between the UK and the EU will be.
Ireland is particularly worried about the prospect of tariffs on the import and export of goods to Britain after it formally leaves the EU as expected.
Ireland considers it crucial that Britain be allowed to remain part of the EU free trade area but this would be decided by the EU as a whole and Ireland would not be able to negotiate separately with Britain.
There is general agreement in Ireland that the Brexit vote will have huge political, social and economic consequences.
Although the Republic has diversified its trading links significantly since joining the European Economic Community in 1972, the country’s former ruler remains the biggest trading partner in several key export sectors, particularly agriculture.
The immediate impact is already being felt as the British currency has fallen dramatically since Friday.
If sterling’s weakness were to continue it would damage Irish exports, with agriculture alone valued at around USD 881 million a year.