Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan has said recent comments from British Prime Minister Theresa May signalling a "hard Brexit" approach to negotiations with the EU are not what the Irish Government would ideally have wished to see.
Speaking in the Seanad, he also dismissed calls for a 'Minister for Brexit', saying every department wold be affected and would need to be engaged with the process.
“The Prime Minister’s comments indicate that the UK will not seek a so-called 'soft Brexit' under which it would seek a relationship with the EU similar to that of Norway or Switzerland. This would not be compatible with controls on the free movement of people, which appears to be a cornerstone of her position and runs contrary to the EU’s insistence on the indivisibility of the four freedoms which underlie the single market," Flanagan said.
Earlier, May told the Conservative Party conference that Britain will not give up control of immigration in its negotiations about leaving the EU following its Brexit vote.
She said her government would see though Brexit and return powers to Britain. "Our rules made not in Brussels, but in Westminster, our judges, sitting not in Luxembourg but in courts across the land," she said.
May warned that negotiations would be tough and that it was too early to say when a deal would be reached. She has said that Article 50 will be triggered no later than March next year. May said a "running commentary" on the talks would not be in Britain's national interest.
The British Prime Minister added, however, that she wanted the talks tor reflect a "strong and mature" relationship between Britain and Europe. She also said she wanted the talks to give British companies the "maximum freedom" to trade in Europe.
May said there would be give and take in the talks, but that in the end "the deal is going to have to work for Britain".
Away from Brexit, May took a swipe at “elites” and business leaders, telling them to end abusive work practices and pay their taxes because “change has got to come” to Britain.
“Today too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass on the streets,” she said as she closed the conference in Birmingham. “A change has got to come and this party is going to make it.”
May pitched her government as the champion of struggling working classes in a speech that portrayed the June 23 vote to leave the EU as a protest not just against the EU, but a call for change in the way the country and its companies work.
“If you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff; an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra; a household name that refuses to work with the authorities even to fight terrorism; a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension is about to go bust, I’m putting you on warning: this can’t go on anymore,” May said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg News