Minister Flanagan highlights concerns about implications for the border in the event of a ‘Brexit’21 April 2016
- “No-one can say with certainty that nothing will change with the border if the UK votes to leave….the border’s destiny would not be determined by the sole wishes of the Irish and British governments.”
- Minister outlines government approach to Dáil nine weeks before UK vote
- Appeals for active Irish engagement at home and in the UK
With just 63 days to polling day in the UK’s referendum on its EU membership, Minister Flanagan made a comprehensive statement to the Dáil outlining his priorities and approach as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He set out the uncertainties and complexities around the status of the border in the event the UK departed from the European Union.
On Northern Ireland and the border, the Minister said:
“The border between north and south is an open border between two EU member states with all that has to offer. Today, this practically invisible border is a major symbol of normalisation and development in north-south relations.
“Any implications for the current border arrangements would only arise if the UK voted to leave and, in that event, their future would depend heavily on the terms and conditions of a new relationship between the UK and the EU.
“In other words, the border’s destiny would not be determined by the sole wishes of the Irish and British governments. The outcome would be the result of a wider negotiation involving all of the EU and therefore no-one can say with certainty that nothing will change with the border if the UK votes to leave.”
“The fact that Ireland and the UK have both been members of the EU for 43 years has provided a shared, valuable and reassuring context for the people of Northern Ireland, whether they consider themselves Irish or British – or both. There is also the valuable EU funding and the fact that the island as a whole is currently within the EU single market."
Minister Flanagan cited official reports published by the UK government which highlighted the possible effects of a UK decision to leave on the border between north and south. The full text of the Minister’s speech can be seen here.
On the European Union’s strategic value, the Minister spoke of its historic achievements and its wider goals for the future:
“As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I am acutely aware of the conflicts and violence in many parts of the world, including near to the borders of the EU itself.
“However, in a year when we will commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme where so many Irish soldiers lost their lives, it is also important to reflect on the origins of the EU and on the peace, stability and prosperity that this has delivered for our continent. As has been said many times before, the EU itself is, at heart, a peace process. And it is one that must succeed.
“The UK and Ireland joined the EU at the same time and over the 43 years since our accession, it has been clear that for historical and cultural reasons, we share many common perspectives on policy matters. The UK is an important voice at the table in Brussels. We want that voice to continue being heard”.
Concluding his statement, Minister Flanagan appealed for active Irish engagement at home and within the UK:
“The referendum is still ahead of us. 46 million voters are entitled to cast their vote and it is solely in their hands on 23 June.
“Our task between now and then is to put forward our view to those who may factor the Irish dimension into their decision – whether they are Irish citizens, people with close links to Ireland, or members of the British public who want to be reassured that they have partners and friends in Europe.
“This is a task for all of us here in Ireland and I hope that today’s debate will demonstrate a large consensus among the people’s representatives across this House. A consensus that Ireland wants the UK to stay in the European Union - in our own interests, in the interests of Irish-British relations and in the interests of the EU as a whole.”
21 April 2016