Northern Ireland

Brexit 'would create serious difficulties for NI' says Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny and David Cameron are due to hold talks later Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Enda Kenny and David Cameron were speaking after they met at Downing Street

If Britain left the European Union, it would create "serious difficulties" for Northern Ireland, the Irish prime minister has said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was speaking after a meeting with UK Prime Minster David Cameron at Downing Street on Monday.

He said the issue of Britain's EU membership was "critical" for Ireland and came at a time of "great uncertainty" for Europe.

But he was positive about EU reform and keeping the UK within the union.

Britain, he said, was "an essential and fundamental" member.

"Our focus is on helping Britain and helping our colleagues in Europe so that everyone can benefit from reforms," he told a press conference.

"Out of this could come a really effective, stream-lined, competent and lean Europe."

The Irish Government has made it consistently clear that it does not want to see Britain leave the EU.

Its main concern is economic - the UK is Ireland's biggest trading partner and the two countries trade over 1bn euro of goods and services every week.

Ireland's other concerns include the potential impacts on Northern Ireland and the wider British-Irish relationship.

Mr Kenny made the comment about "serious difficulties" in relation to potential economic impacts on Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is Northern Ireland's largest export market and the agri-food sector has particularly deep cross border links.

Supporters of leaving the EU claim that Northern Ireland would be better off out of the union.

Former Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson has said Northern Ireland could get "an additional £540m in its budget" if the UK leaves.

He claimed the annual block grant would likely benefit from the UK saving on its financial contribution to Europe.

At the press conference with Mr Kenny at Downing Street on Monday, Mr Cameron said the bilateral relationship between the UK and Ireland had "never been stronger or more productive" than today.

He said the UK and Ireland shared a "strong desire to make the EU more competitive" and to prioritise important trade agreements.

A referendum on UK membership of the EU must be held by the end of 2017.

At the weekend, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said a UK exit from Europe would be "a leap into the unknown".

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