|Michael D. Higgins (Labour, since 2011)
Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael, since June 2017)
|Size||84,421 km2 (32,595 sq miles)|
|MEPs||11 (joined the EU in 1973)|
|Next presidential election
Next legislative election
By April 2021
|Presidency of the Council||July – December 2026|
|Last meeting with Theresa May||17 November 2017 at Social Summit|
|Brexit priorities||As the Republic of Ireland will become the EU’s only land border with the UK, so the Government’s main priority is to keep this border with Northern Ireland as open and barrier-free as possible, both for travel and trade. Up to 1 million people cross the border every month.
Ireland has also asked the EU to include in its negotiation strategy a guarantee that Northern Ireland should easily be able to join the EU if it democratically decides it wants to join. The majority of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.
One of the country’s other main priorities will also be to safeguard the peace process between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Despite the close relationship between Ireland and the UK, Irish officials have been clear in stating it will fully support the EU-side throughout the Brexit negotiations.
|What Mr Varadkar said on Brexit||Minister Flanagan of Foreign Affairs on 9 February 2017
“We are firmly on the side of the EU-27.”
“We don’t subscribe to the view that punishment should be exacted [on the UK].”
“I don’t see any positives in the withdrawal from the EU of the UK, for the EU or for the UK.”
Minister Flanagan of Foreign Affairs on 6 April 2017
“I believe [Brexit] was a bad decision, but of course as a democrat I fully respect and recognise the will and wishes of the British people. We’ve got to deal with that now.”
“The Article 50 process has commenced, and I believe it’s essential now that we get through the negotiations in such a way that the end result can be as close as possible a relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, albeit with the UK gone.”
19 June 2017
“While there will be a political border between our two countries, there should not be an economic one and any border that does exist should be invisible.”
28 June 2017
“The level of uncertainty as to the outcome of the negotiations remains very high, and it’s clear that Brexit is a fundamental economic risk for Ireland if it results in a permanent change to the rules of trade between our two countries”
25 September 2017
“Saying there will be no physical infrastructure [at the Ireland-U.K. border] is a very strong statement. The way I believe you can best achieve that is for the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, to stay in some form of the customs union and some form of single market with the European Union.”
17 November 2017
“It’s causing enormous difficulties for the whole of Europe and Ireland in particular and to me it seems that after 40 years of marriage, most of them good, Britain wants a divorce and wants an open relationship that day after.”
|Ireland’s priorities||Ireland could face a snap election after Fianna Fáil, the second biggest party, filed a motion of no confidence in the deputy Prime Minister, Frances Fitzgerald over her handling of a police whistleblower controversy. Fine Gael leads a minority government with the support of Fianna Fáil under a confidence and supply agreement. If Fitzgerald does not resign before the motion is debated, the government could collapse and snap elections must be held.
The Irish Government’s priorities are to build 25,000 new homes, create 200,000 jobs and reform the budget to allocate €6.75 billion more to public services.
The Government has announced it wishes to hold seven referendums over the next two years. The first will be on the country’s restrictive abortion laws and will be held in May or June 2018. Other referendums will regard direct elections of the mayor, extending voting rights, reducing the voting age, the role of women at home, divorce and removing blasphemy as an offence.
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