Post-Brexit U.K. May Feel Chill From EU States, Kenny Says

  • Ireland would continue to stand up for Britain, he says
  • U.K. vote to leave EU would create consequences for Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said there’s no guarantee other European Union nations will be as accommodating as Ireland to the U.K. if it votes to leave the bloc.

Kenny, speaking in a Bloomberg Television interview in Dublin Friday, said the British people should be made fully aware of the potential impact of a so-called Brexit before they vote in next month’s EU referendum. Ireland has already reached out to the 1 million Irish citizens living in the U.K. to outline the facts, he said.

Enda Kenny on May 13.

Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

“It’s very important that we continue to inform our people, and that the British electorate are fully informed as to the nature of the decision they must make, as to the consequences,” Kenny said. “If the British electorate were to decide to leave the European Union, Ireland would obviously still stand up for Britain and would talk about those close liaisons at a European level, but I could not determine what the response from the other 26 countries who had arrangements with Britain could be.”

Kenny, who won a second term as prime minister last week after more than two months of post-election deadlock, said he hopes the U.K. votes to remain in the 28-nation bloc. Irish people who live in Britain and have a vote in the June 23 referendum also need to be fully aware of the possible effects of a British departure from the bloc, he said.

The impact on Ireland of a British exit from the EU would be “proportionally greater than on any other EU member state,” Kenny said in a speech at a Bloomberg event after the interview. Brexit could have consequences for free trade and travel between the two nations, for tens of thousands of jobs filled by citizens in each other’s country and cooperation between the two governments on peace in Northern Ireland, he said.

Northern Ireland

“The European Union has made and continues to make considerable investment in the Northern Ireland situation, moving from a time of terrorism, to difficulties, to significance of the fragile peace process,” he said in his speech. “It’s much easier when both jurisdictions are members of the same union to have support for that and to have continued support for it.”

The U.K. and Ireland both joined the EU in 1973. While there is free movement of people between the two countries, neither is a member of the passport-free Schengen zone which covers most of the rest of the bloc.

“When we were both outside the European Union we still had a common travel area, now that we’re both members of the European Union, that common travel area applies,” Kenny said. “Were Britain to leave and Ireland still remains a member of the European Union, that’s a different situation; what do you do in a situation like that?”

The British referendum represents “one of the most crucial decisions being made of the past 50 years,” he said.

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