Ireland to be worst affected by Brexit, Irish premier tells Merkel

The island of Ireland would likely be worst affected by the British decision to leave the European Union, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday.

The two leaders discussed the future of European integration, Britain's relationship with Europe after the Brexit as well as Ireland's "unique relationship" with Britain as the country's western neighbour and former colony.

"If Britain has access to the single market, then things will stay very much the same as they are. But that will come at a price," Kenny said, referring to the free movement of people without restriction, which is seen as a quid pro quo in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

The Irish premier was keen to avoid creating new obstacles to trade and travel between Britain and Ireland along the Northern Irish border. "We don't want to see a European border run from Dundalk to Derry," he said.

There were also many practical issues to consider for Ireland, Kenny said, pointing out that hundreds of thousands of Irish people living either side of the Irish Sea depended on the British economy for work.

It would be difficult to give an outcome at this stage, he added, but according to "predictive economic papers" Ireland would be the worst-affected country.

Both leaders stressed that Britain had to make up its mind on its future relationship with the EU soon.

"The task of the new prime minister ... will be to get clarity on the question of what kind of relationship Britain wants to build with the European Union," Merkel told reporters.

Kenny too stressed that he was keen for Britain to take a decision on triggering Article 50, which starts the process of exit negotiations, so that EU members would know whether the country wanted a relationship to the bloc based on either the Swiss or Norwegian model or something altogether different.

Regarding the peace process in Northern Ireland, Kenny said that a lengthy conflict between Catholics and Protestants had left "a very fragile legacy," and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the North had to continue.

"Peace can never be taken for granted," Kenny said. "This is why I keep reminding people of the value of the European Union," which he considered to be a "peace process in itself."

Merkel meanwhile emphasized the importance of Ireland's voice in the EU and its good relations with Germany. The 27 remaining EU member states would have to discuss the future of the union: "And here the Irish voice will be heard as well as all the others."

Last update: Tue, 12/07/2016 - 17:17

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