Thursday, November 30

EU first meeting held without Britain



Taoiseach Enda Kenny will today attend a meeting of EU heads of state, the first to not include Britain, for crunch talks that are set to be dominated by border security, rumours of an EU army, migration, the Apple tax crisis, and the Brexit fallout.

He will travel to the Slovakian capital of Bratislava for the summit with counterparts from 26 EU countries, with British prime minister Theresa May a notable exception due to her nation’s decision to leave the EU.

The meeting is part of a series of behind-closed-doors talks between EU members in recent months in order to address a range of issues affecting the future of Europe.

A Government spokesperson last night said the event is part of a “process of political reflection about the future of Europe”.

Officially the focus of the eventis on border security, economic matters, and the ongoing Mediterranean migrant crisis.

However, the fallout from Brexit is expected to be widely discussed due to its impact on the areas.

The meeting takes place amid a backdrop of friction and uncertainty within the continent.

Long-held issues between countries in the EU have been exacerbated in recent months by the Brexit fallout, migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, security issues, economic rifts, and the Apple tax controversy.

In his annual speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described Brexit as a “wake-up call” to the EU and suggested a plan to set up a 100,000-strong volunteer European “youth corps” to help with defence and security measures, in a comment widely believed to be aimed at strengthening the EU’s borders.

While the issue could affect Ireland’s determination to keep a soft border between the Republic and the North — which Mr Kenny is expected to raise again today — it is also aimed at Mediterranean countries due to the migrant crisis.

The comment has already caused concerns among some due to the suggestion it could lead in time to an EU army being formed, with one Strasbourg official saying on Wednesday the idea highlights Europe’s current “existential crisis”.

Citing the difficulties in the EU at present — including the growing rift between Ireland and the rest of the region over the Apple tax controversy — Mr Juncker also pointed to the rival interests within the EU.

He said while northern EU states are battling increasingly popular anti-EU movements in part because of the Brexit vote, those in the east and south are more concerned about border security while others want to keep the focus on the economy, taxation, and jobs.