This site keeps banging on about the Irish dimension of Brexit – that’s to say, about why Ireland could be very helpful to us during the coming negotiations, because it has such a big stake in our economy prospering, since its own is so closely linked to it.
That Enda Kenny was the first European leader that Donald Trump phoned in his round of post-victory calls reinforces the point. Yes, that’s right. Not Angela Merkel. Not our own Prime Minister. Not even Vladimir Putin – but the Taoiseach.
There seems to be no close personal connection. Indeed, Kenny has been just as disobliging about some of the President-elect’s remarks as Theresa May has been – first trying to avoid being caught up in the Trump circus; then calling some of his remarks “racist and dangerous”; and then, yesterday, congratulating him.
The reasons for the President-elects call are surely internal to American party politics rather than security or prosperity-related, given the size of Ireland’s economy and its neutrality policy. Trump may be a Republican (now), but he has spent much of his business career in that bastion of Democrat politics, and Irish-American Democrat politics at that – New York. Mike Pence, the Vice-President elect, is Irish-American.
Kenny wears two hats. First, his party, Fine Gael, is a member of the European People’s Party, which may or may not be useful after the coming set of elections in Europe. Second, Ireland is presumably – on the basis of this call – important to Trump.
The Taoiseach is therefore well-placed to be a middleman between our EU interlocuters, May’s Government, and a new pro-Brexit president in America. Downing Street is keen to make the point that the negotiation will not simply be a narrow one between Britain and other European countries: America and other investor nations will have a stake.
So Ministers should make every effort to work with their Irish counterparts both before and during the Brexit talks. That means making as much use as possible of the institutional framework that links the two countries – in particular, the British-Irish Intergovernmental conference, in which Ministers meet face to face.