Minister Flanagan Addresses Seanad Éireann on Eve of Important UK EU Referendum22 June 2016
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Addresses Seanad Éireann on Eve of Important UK EU Referendum
“We want the UK, as our friend, closest neighbour and partner, to remain a member of a reformed EU”
Speaking during a Seanad debate today (22 June), the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan T.D., set out the Government’s position on the eve of polling day for the UK referendum on EU membership.
Minister Flanagan said:
"We want the UK, as our friend, closest neighbour and partner, to remain a member of a reformed EU. This is a view which enjoys near-unanimous support within both Houses of the Oireachtas, though I recognise and respect that there is a different point of view.
The reasons underpinning the Government’s position will also be familiar to you - these include important considerations in relation to our economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area and of course the EU itself."
Minister Flanagan set out the extensive work undertaken by the Government and by Irish diplomats and officials on this issue since a referendum was first proposed by Prime Minister Cameron in 2013. Focusing on the Irish contribution to the UK referendum debate in recent months, the Minister said:
"During the course of a visit to the UK in early April, I identified a desire among the local Irish community to hear the Irish perspective from Government and Opposition. My own experience of referendums here meant that I was aware of the sensitivities but happy to give our perspective, if asked.
Over the last three months or so as the formal campaign was underway, you will have noticed that the Irish Government – complemented by active engagement by civil society here in Ireland, the Irish community in Britain and leading Opposition figures – has made its own contribution to the UK referendum debate.
We respect fully that the decision ultimately lies with the UK electorate, but we strove to put across the Irish perspective, including through a programme of 14 visits at Government level to Britain and Northern Ireland since the beginning of April. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I managed this programme across Government and as part of it I visited London, Belfast, Derry, Liverpool and Manchester."
On Northern Ireland, the Minister said:
"As I stressed during my visits to Belfast, Derry and elsewhere, the fact that Ireland is the only EU Member State that shares a land border with the UK was a particularly compelling reason why the Irish Government felt it was obliged to ensure our perspective was known and understood.
As a Minister who has spent a considerable period of my time focused on the need to support and sustain political stability in Northern Ireland, I am acutely conscious of the negative implications of a Leave decision on the progress that has been over the last two decades."
Concluding his statement to the Seanad, the Minister emphasised that the Government was prepared for both possible outcomes in the referendum:
"Polling day is tomorrow and the UK electorate will of course have the final say on the matter. Polls suggest both outcomes are equally possible and the government is as prepared as it possibly can be for both outcomes. Whatever the result, the Government will strive to protect and promote Ireland’s key interests. The Oireachtas will of course play its full part in that important work."
22 June 2016
Note for Editors:
The most recent information on the Irish Government’s position on the UK EU referendum is available at http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/EU-UK/