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Minister Flanagan addresses QUB symposium on “Brexit” implications for Northern Ireland

- Joined by NI Minister for Finance and Personnel, Arlene Foster
- Programme includes a meeting with the Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson to discuss the new ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D. today (Thursday) traveled to Belfast to address a seminar on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Minister Flanagan, along with Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance and Personnel, Arlene Foster, addressed a seminar hosted by Queen’s University on the theme “What Brexit means for Northern Ireland”. The seminar was organised in conjunction with the Irish Association and the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA).

Having met his UK counterpart, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond MP, in London earlier this week to discuss the UK’s membership of the EU, Minister Flanagan focused his remarks on the uncertainty that a UK exit would bring for Northern Ireland. He also highlighted to valuable financial supports the EU has provided over more than 40 years, as well as the fact that the EU provided a supportive context for peace and reconciliation.

In his speech, the Minister said:

“No matter what way you look at it, a Brexit would be a leap into the unknown. No matter how much planning and mitigating and negotiating ... we simply don’t yet know just how much it might mean for the border, for north-south cooperation and for the all-island economy.”

The Minister also called for extensive public engagement on the issue across Northern Ireland:

“People deserve to be able to make their decision on the clearest possible understanding of all the facts. As we know from our own EU referendums, active civil society and political engagement is vital to ensure maximum voter participation.”

Referring to the ongoing negotiations at EU level following Prime Minister Cameron’s letter to his EU counterparts on 5 November, the Minister said that while much work remained to be done, the Irish government was determined to work for a deal which helped keep the UK in the EU:

“We are in the business of solutions, including through being committed to supporting sensible British reform EU proposals. We are firmly behind the UK’s initiative, for example, to strengthen the Union’s competitiveness through more sensible regulation and a reduction in red tape”.

Having set out his political and economic concerns, the Minister concluded on an upbeat note:

“I am optimistic that a deal can be struck that can secure the UK’s future in the EU. And I am hopeful that the voice of reason, and good old fashioned pragmatism, will prevail in the campaign ahead of the referendum.

"I promise you all that the Irish Government will play a full and active, yet appropriate part in this crucial period ahead.”

Separately, Minister Flanagan will meet with Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson. This meeting, just over one week after the conclusion of the Fresh Start Agreement, will provide an opportunity for the Minister to discuss with the Commissioner how best to take forward the legacy aspects of the Stormont House Agreement in a way which meets the needs of victims and survivors.


Press Office

25 November 2015