ENDA Kenny has called on the Irish in Britain to vote to remain within the EU amidst fears a split would be detrimental to the peace process in the North of Ireland.
Speaking in London having met with David Cameron at Downing Street, the Taoiseach said: “Brexit is not in Ireland’s economic interest. We will support Britain where we can – to a point. We have national interests ourselves we must protect.”
Mr Kenny said independent research has found that the North of Ireland could be the most adversely affected in the event of a Brexit.
“That is extremely worrying on a number of levels,” he said. “Now is not the time to weaken the cohesive stabilising influence and outward focus that shared EU membership brings to Northern Ireland.
“We have come through a difficult few months politically. I believe Northern Ireland can leave the past behind and become a dynamic economy that will benefit not only the UK but the island of Ireland.”
David Cameron has pledged to call an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU by the end of 2017.
On Tuesday, he is due to present a list of demands for reform to European Council president Donald Tusk, which he claims if not met, may lead him to recommend Britain leaves the EU.
"We cannot support everything set out but we can be constructive and supportive in what Cameron is asking for, the single market, single digital market, greater efficiency and elimination of red tape,” Mr Kenny said.
As the fastest-growing economy in the EU in 2014, Mr Kenny added that he was confidant Ireland could achieve the same again this year, as he highlighted the strong connection between the British and Irish economies.
He said the changing profile of Irish workers in Britain reflects Ireland’s improving economy and its “tech-savvy, professionalised” workforce, and he emphasised the benefit of the freedom of movement across national boundaries.
With an estimated 45,000 Irish Directors now heading British companies, he said: “Our respective labour markets have always been closely integrated. The profile of Irish workers in Britain has changed over the years.”
And speaking exclusively to The Irish Post at the Fine Gael London Dinner in Cricklewood, the Taoiseach made his position on a possible Brexit clear.
“The European Union will be better off with Britain remaining a member,” he said. “It’s really serious for our country that Britain remains a member. We can’t contemplate otherwise because that would lead to all kinds of things like border controls, lack of trade and difficulties with energy supply.”
When talking about the Irish in Britain, Mr Kenny added: “They should vote for Britain to stay in the European Union.”
The statement comes after the Economic and Social Research Institute think-tank, based in Dublin, published a report warning that if Britain’s forthcoming referendum resulted in a Brexit, Anglo-Irish trade could be cut by a fifth.
While in London this week, Mr Kenny also gave an address at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference.
“It’s not often that a foreign leader is invited to speak at the CBI or to have the British prime minster give a warm up for the Irish Taoiseach,” he joked in reference to his introduction on stage by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Enda Kenny also confirmed he spoke to the Prime Minster on matters in the North, where he is meeting with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness this week.