EU referendum: Irish PM 'ready for Brexit challenges'

Enda Kenny Image copyright Dáil (Irish Parliament)
Image caption Mr Kenny told the Dáil (Irish Parliament) there "has been a political earthquake in the UK, the consequences of which will take some time to work out"

The UK's vote to leave the EU caused a "political earthquake" the Irish prime minister has said, but he added his country was ready for challenges ahead.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said the referendum was not the result his government wanted, but it respected "the UK voters' sovereign choice".

He said he will work to protect trade, travel links and Northern Ireland.

"There will be no early change to the free flow of people, goods and services between our islands," Mr Kenny added.

He said currency fluctuations would "present some challenges in the short-term" but that the trading relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland would continue "as normal" until Britain had concluded its exit negotiations with the EU.

'Deeply concerned'

After a nationwide referendum last Thursday, the UK electorate voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%.

Addressing the Dáil (Irish parliament), Mr Kenny said: "I think that in other governments there is a full understanding that there has been a political earthquake in the UK, the consequences of which will take some time to work out.

"I expect that there will be broad consensus that we will need to await the entry into office of a new British prime minister before a formal exit notification can be made."

The taoiseach said the stakes "have always been higher" for the Republic of Ireland than for any other EU member state because of its shared land border with the UK, the common travel area between Britain and the Republic, and the Northern Ireland peace process.

"I fully understand why many people in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned that Northern Ireland will be outside of a project that has delivered so much for political stability, reconciliation and economic prosperity," Mr Kenny said.

"We will continue to work urgently and intensively with the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive to see how collectively we can ensure that the gains of the last two decades are fully protected in whatever post-exit arrangements are negotiated."

'Collective response'

He added that he had begun to strengthen bilateral relations with Britain before the UK's general election last year, to identify the issues that could arise in the event of a Brexit vote.

Mr Kenny will travel to Brussels on Tuesday for a meeting of the European Council which he said would be the EU's "first opportunity for a collective response to the situation by all member states".

The taoiseach said: "A stable, prosperous, and outward-looking UK is clearly in our own interests and those of the EU as a whole.

"The closer the UK is to the EU, the better for all of us, and above all for Ireland.

"However, it will be up to the UK itself to work out what it wants to achieve, and how it sees its future."

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