Brexit negotiations between Britain and the EU could turn “vicious”, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny warned on Wednesday (2 November) during a meeting with politicians and business leaders to discuss the divorce.
Kenny said Britain’s decision to leave the EU was the “most significant economic and social challenge of the past 50 years” for Ireland but that “Europe risks losing the plot” over what deal to offer Britain, adding that talks threatened to become “quite vicious”.
Kenny said Ireland was the EU state with most to fear from Brexit and that it was already suffering despite the British government not yet triggering the formal separation process, citing the economic effects of the near 20% drop in the value of sterling.
“I am very conscious that for some sectors, Brexit is not a distant prospect but a present reality as the sterling depreciation creates many challenges for Irish exporters,” he said.
Opposition Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also warned that the Northern Ireland peace process was “under very serious threat” due to the potential upheaval to cultural and social relations arising from a loss of EU funding and a return to a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
“There is also very real concern in the North, where the prospect of inflation and an increase in the cost of living is likely,” he said.
“Jobs are at risk, investment is under threat and our agricultural community faces systemic complications. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Political parties from across the entire island of Ireland were invited the forum, with around 300 politicians attending.
However, the two main pro-British Unionist parties in Northern Ireland both boycotted the event.
The Guardian reported earlier today that Kenny said that “he had an assurance from the British prime minister that there would be “no hard border” between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, and that the retention of an open border was a critical element of negotiations.
“Neither I nor the prime minister desire to limit the freedom of people on both sides of the Irish sea to trade, live, work and travel freely across these islands,” the Irish premier stated. “Therefore we have agreed that the benefits of the common travel area be preserved.”