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President Hollande recognises Ireland is a "special" case in Brexit talks

The French president said the sooner Britain triggers Brexit the better.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated 13.00pm

FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS Hollande said he recognises that Ireland is in a “special situation” when it comes to the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking during his one-day visit to Dublin, Hollande said he acknowledged that Ireland is a special case in the upcoming talks with the United Kingdom.

“I do recognise there is a special situation and has to find a place in the negotiations.”

However, he said the relationship that exists between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK will all have to be negotiated.

Hollande pointed out that while a train connects the UK and France, it is land that connects Ireland and the UK.

He said he understood the Irish government’s position that the Good Friday Agreement should be central in our negotiations. “It is very important for peace,” he said.

French president visit to Ireland Source: Niall Carson

“We also believe free movement should be preserved… the access to the single market cannot be guaranteed unless the freedom of workers be respected,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was very glad to hear that the French President recognised that Ireland finds itself in a unique situation with the UK.

Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel played down any such suggestion that Ireland would get any special guarantees.

Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement gives Ireland a “unique perspective” to the negotiations, and makes Ireland “unique” as both Ireland and the UK are “co-guarantors” of the agreement, said Kenny.

The Taoiseach said he has outlined its importance at the last two EU Council meetings and said it is understood by all EU leaders.

It is a fundamental issue we want to see protected, therefore that will be of its own special nature a part of the discussions.

Europe has contributed greatly to the agreement adding that the peace process was “absolutely essential”.

“We do not favour a hard border, obviously. We do not wish to see a European border from Dundalk to Derry. That would not be acceptable,” Kenny said.

He maintained that the best thing for Ireland is that Britain would continue to have access to the single-market and the closer Britain is to the single-market then the better deal for Ireland can be achieved.

We believe we can and we will be able to preserve the Common Travel Area.

French president visit to Ireland Source: Niall Carson

Brexit trigger

Both President Hollande and Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Britain should trigger its exit from the European Union “as soon as possible” following the referendum last month.

“The sooner those negotiations start the better, the clearer it will be,” said Hollande, stating that the shorter the talks are the better, and they should not “drag on”.

Taking a tough stance on the UK, Hollande said Britain has to bear the consequences of their vote to leave the EU. “There is a time when politicians have to accept this vote,” he said.

The French president arrived at Government Buildings shortly before 10am this morning.

As the garda helicopter flew overhead and under tight security, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan greeted the French president and his entourage.

Standing in front of a sea of journalists (including 33 French journalists who travelled to Ireland specially for the visit) Kenny shook hands with Hollande and pointed to the sky to signal to the typical Irish weather as rain began to pour down on the pair, and they quickly went indoors.

The two European leaders held a one hour meeting to discuss the impact of the UK decision on leaving the EU and on security and counter-terrorism measures in the wake of last week’s attack in Nice.

They also discussed the economic situation in Europe and bilateral issues.

Ireland’s corporation tax

When asked if Ireland’s corporation tax rate was under threat in the Brexit talks, Hollande said bluntly: “It has nothing to do with Brexit.”

This will be welcomed by the likes of Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes who writes in the Irish Independent today that Ireland has lost an ally at the EU table with the exit of the UK, who often fought our corner, particularly when it came to our corporation tax rate.

Now, Ireland will have to fight its own corner, says Hayes.

Today the Taoiseach reiterated his sympathy and the outrage of the Irish people towards the Nice attack. He said “Ireland stands by France” in the wake of the attack that left 84 people dead.

President Hollande briefed the Taoiseach on the current security situation and on the French government’s response. The two leaders agreed on the urgent need to accelerate ongoing work on a range of EU counter-terrorism and security actions, and to promote the closest and most effective cooperation between police and security services.

They also agreed that the surest way of asserting and protecting Europe’s fundamental values is to refuse to bow to terrorism and its assault on those values.

French president visit to Ireland Source: Niall Carson

Ireland’s neutrality

The Taoiseach said Ireland did not have difficulty in enhancing its co-operation with the EU and NATO, but said there must be a clear understanding of Ireland’s neutrality.

While Hollande said he recognises our neutral status, he said the country had to be aware of the risks facing Europe. He said Europe “has to get rid of this threat”.

Hollande said attacks on our liberty are “indiscriminate”.

They don’t make any distinctions… they attack everywhere.

“We will continue to act against ISIS,” he said.

The visit comes just one week to the day of the Nice terrorist attack which left 84 dead and hundreds hurt.

Hollande welcomed Ireland’s support after the attack and said he would not forget it.

Yesterday, a six month extension to the state of emergency was approved in France.

Lawmakers also approved the extension of the emergency rule which gives police exceptional search and arrest powers.

Since the Nice attack, Hollande has received intense criticism from his political opponents who accuse his government of failing to do enough to prevent the tragedy.

Today he told the media that it was correct to ask questions about the event planning, why fireworks were held on 14 July, and what involvement the local and national police had in the event.

He said there would be truth and transparency regarding the investigation. A report will be delivered as soon as next week, he said.

Syria attack 

The French president was also asked today about what role France played in a recent attack in Syria that killed 56 people near the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

President Hollande said he had no precise information on whether French planes were responsible for an air strike.

“On the actions of the coalition, I have no exact information on what French planes could have done,” Hollande said.

“We are striking in the framework of the coalition and are very careful in our strikes.”

French president visit to Ireland French President Francois Hollande is greeted by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins on his arrival at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Presidential meeting 

During his whistle-stop visit, President Hollande will also meet with President Michael D Higgins.

May meets Merkel Source: Stefan Rousseau

Fresh from his discussions on what Brexit means for Ireland and the wider Europe, Hollande is scheduled to meet with the new British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris this evening.

Read: The UK’s giving up its EU presidency (it has bigger things to worry about)>
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