Enda Kenny is not a man to be envied these days. On a visit to the German financial capital Frankfurt on Thursday, the Irish prime minister worked his way around a hall of some 170 German and Irish business leaders, shaking hands with some and hugging others. It was the opening act of a visit that included talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr. Kenny may know how to charm a room, but he’s on an extremely tough mission. The Irish prime minister, or Taioseach as his position is known in Ireland, has the unenviable task of convincing his European partners to go easy on the country that turned its back on the European Union. Mr. Kenny, himself a Europhile, knows it’s not an easy case to make. Many EU members aren’t exactly in a forgiving mood after Britain voted to leave the bloc in June of last year.
Mr. Kenny himself may yet resign from office over a domestic police scandal, but until that happens he doesn’t really have a choice but to push forward to protect his country’s interests at this rather critical time. Ireland, the only EU country that shares a land border with Britain, will be more affected by Britain’s exit from the 28-nation (soon 27-nation) economic bloc than any other EU member. More than 40 percent of Irish exports go to its neighbor on the British Isles. Mr. Kenny’s unenviable task in Frankfurt and Berlin, therefore, was to convince Germany’s policymakers not to burn their bridges with Britain. And maybe even build on them instead.