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Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the European of the Year Award. Eamonn Farrell via
European of the Year

Enda Kenny on Brexit: 'I am appalled by what is happening in politics in Britain'

The former Taoiseach received European Movement Ireland’s European of the Year Award this afternoon.

ENDA KENNY HAS said he is “appalled” by what is happening in politics in Britain at the moment, speaking in relation to Brexit.

The former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader received European Movement Ireland’s European of the Year Award from his successor Leo Varadkar at a ceremony at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin this afternoon.

European Movement Ireland said the award “recognises and honours individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to promoting and enhancing Ireland’s place in the EU”.

Accepting his award, Kenny touched on a range of topics in relation to Europe, focusing largely on the issues surrounding Brexit.

Kenny said that he is “appalled by what is happening in politics in Britain” currently.

“The government is driven by internal dissent, lacks credibility and clarity in the most serious issue in decades,” Kenny said.

On 15 December, EU leaders agreed to move onto phase two of Brexit talks. December’s deal promised “full alignment” with the EU single market and customs union rules that are crucial to the Good Friday Agreement.

Noting the agreement in December, Kenny said: “Six months on from the agreement being reached in December last year, very little progress has been made.

“The EU continues to negotiate from a unified position, British business is afraid to speak out because of the spectre of the Labour government.

If this matter is not dealt with, if negotiations have not been concluded and signed off before the EU Council in October, then we will have a very different outcome.

The EU has set a ‘by October’ deadline for it to agree with the UK a final legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement. That is so it can be ratified by the European Parliament, the Council and the UK.

Northern Ireland and the border has emerged as one of the key issues for negotiators in Brexit talks, with all sides insisting that there can be no hard border between the North and the Republic post-Brexit.

The UK has committed to providing technological solutions to the issue of the border. May committed that if the EU did not accept these solutions, a backstop plan would be put in place that would avoid this.

“The EU Council meeting in October is not a negotiating meeting. If negotiations have not been concluded before that meeting, then the EU Council will meet to discuss among themselves without Britain. This is really crucial,” Kenny said.

Last week, the UK government proposed that a “backstop” to be put in place should there be no Brexit border deal which would end in 2021.

‘We need significant progress’

Speaking before Kenny at the event, Varadkar also touched on the issues surrounding Brexit, and said that he wants to ensure that the “future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom is as close and comprehensive and ambitious as possible”.

We’re very keen to move onto detailed negotiations about that future relationship as soon as possible.

However, Varadkar noted that a Withdrawal Agreement needs to be agreed on first and Ireland needs to see “significant and substantial progress” on the backstop solution for the border if it is to agree on a final legal text.

Varadkar spoke of the impact that Kenny had during the early days of the Brexit negotiations and said that under his “strong” leadership”, the government agreed what Ireland’s priorities with regard to Brexit should be.

“With Enda firmly at the helm, we succeeded in ensuring that our unique concerns relating to Northern Ireland were listened to and understood and our concerns became European concerns and that has made all the difference for me and the Tánaiste in the year gone by,” he said.

The award

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for European Movement Ireland told that Kenny was to receive the award “for his work in building Ireland’s relationship with European through some of the most challenging circumstances in our recent history”.

They cited his work chairing the European Council in 2013 as well as “preparing the ground for the decision to include the Irish border as a priority issue in the Brexit negotiations and establishing the All-Island Civic Dialogues on Brexit, which have proved vital in helping civil society and business prepare for Brexit”.

Since the award was established in 1988, Irish individuals with backgrounds in art, business, politics and administration have received it. Previous winners include playwright Brian Friel, businessman Michael Smurfit, former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and former Secretary General of the European Commission Catherine Day.

With reporting by Orla Ryan. 

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