Minister Dara Murphy T.D. remarks on recent commentary about Brexit and Ireland’s EU membership25 January 2017
Minister Dara Murphy T.D. remarks on recent commentary about Brexit and Ireland’s EU membership
Speaking at the European Movement Ireland event today to launch the Maltese Presidency Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy said:
“I am concerned about recent arguments that because the Brexit negotiations are likely to be difficult, and because there is so much at stake for Ireland, that we should threaten to leave the EU if we don’t get what we want. Taking yourself hostage is a really strange way to guarantee your future wellbeing.
“Let me be crystal clear. Ireland is a committed member of the European Union. Ireland’s interests, economic, social and political are best served by our continued membership of the European Union. Our economic future prosperity depends on our membership of the single market.”
Acknowledging the very significant potential negative impact of a hard Brexit, the Minister said:
“We are all aware of the very significant potential negative impact of a hard Brexit on our economy, but that would be in the half-penny place compared to the economic devastation that a withdrawal from the EU would cause. Of course we need open discussion and debate of our policy options, but such debate should be serious and informed.
"The consequence of leaving the European Union would inevitably be a return to a greater dependence on the UK and without any of the input we have around the European table. This would reverse the trend of the past forty years and the great strides we have made in diversifying our economic and political relationships."
25 January 2017
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Minister of State for European Affairs, Data Protection and EU Digital Single Market, Dara Murphy TD at the European Movement, 25 January 2017
I’m delighted to be here to discuss the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union
I would like to thank Ambassador Hamilton for his remarks and would also like to take this opportunity to wish Malta all the best for a successful Presidency over the next 6 months. I returned last night from Valletta, where I attended an informal meeting of Ministers and Secretaries of State for EU affairs. We had productive discussions during the sessions and enjoyed a warm welcome from the Maltese Presidency.
I would also like to thank European Movement Ireland, Noelle and all the team for organising this event. In the year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, I am struck by the continued importance of engagement on EU issues by non-governmental organisations. For over 60 years, European Movement Ireland has been actively engaged in leading discussions on European issues and Ireland’s relationship with the EU, promoting greater understanding of the EU throughout Ireland. This work remains as important as ever.
Ireland supports the priorities identified by the Maltese Presidency. The priorities identified are realistic and achievable while they address many of the key challenges facing the European Union.
Over the next six months the work of the European Union will carry on in parallel with the launch of the Brexit negotiations. There is a great deal to be done. Many weighty issues are on the table.
They include the deepening of the Single Market, trade negotiations, the creation of a digital single market, more effective action against terrorism, meeting the multifaceted challenge of migration, future co-operation within the Treaty on security and defence. There is the continuing need, still acute in many countries, to achieve sustainable economic growth, financial stability and jobs.
It will come as no surprise if I endorse in particular the importance attached to delivery on the Single Market and in particular on the Digital Single Market. The ability of the EU to deliver jobs and growth for our citizens in the 21st century really does depend on the EU playing catch up on the Digital Economy. The EU now has a good relatively ambitious programme of work to do that, the key is delivery. I can assure the Maltese Presidency of our full support.
One of the strengths of the rotating Presidency is the way in which each Presidency can bring a special flavour or focus. I welcome the focus that the Malta is giving to Marine policy – as a fellow Island nation, this is indeed timely and welcome. The “Blue Economy” both here in Ireland and in other member States has significant growth potential, so I congratulate the Maltese Presidency for its wisdom and foresight.
Making progress on all the issues set out by the Maltese Presidency is important in itself. But it also is really important that citizens see that the Union makes a tangible difference.
We – the European Union - have to deliver concrete results and improvements for our citizens. And we have to communicate better and more consistently, the “why” and the “what” of what we do at EU level. This is a job and a responsibility that our EU institutions and all member States share, and one that we, frankly, need to get much better at.
At this uncertain – some might say dangerous - time in the world, the EU is more necessary, more important, than many of our citizens realise or understand as a bulwark of peace, stability and rule of law.
That is why it was not really a surprise that opinion polls in many member States showed increases in support for EU membership following the result of the UK referendum, rather than the other way around.
This was certainly the case here in Ireland, where some of the highest levels of support for EU membership were recorded in the aftermath of the UK vote.
I am concerned about recent arguments that because the Brexit negotiations are likely to be difficult, and because there is so much at stake for Ireland, that we should threaten to leave the EU if we don’t get what we want.
Taking yourself hostage is a strange way to guarantee your future wellbeing.
Let me be crystal clear. Ireland is a committed member of the European Union. Ireland’s interests, economic, social and political are best served by our continued membership of the European Union. Our economic future prosperity depends on our membership of the single market.
We are all aware of the very significant potential negative impact of a hard Brexit on our economy, but that would be in the half-penny place compared to the economic devastation that a withdrawl from the EU would cause.
Of course we need open discussion and debate of our policy options, but such debate should be serious and informed. The consequence of leaving the European Union would inevitably be a return to a greater dependence on the UK and without any of the input we have around the European table. This would reverse the trend of the past forty years and the great strides we have made in diversifying our economic and political relationships.
This is not to deny the very great continuing importance of the British market, and of course our unprecedentedly positive relationship with the UK. That will continue. It is why a close relationship between the EU and the UK, which places the minimum possible barriers to continuing trade, is a key objective. But we also recognise the importance of the continued diversification of our export markets, especially for our indigenous companies. This has been a long-term strategy, but work on delivering it is being intensified. This is a priority for our State Agencies, our Embassies, and the whole of government.
But the arguments are not just economic. I do not believe that the Irish people would wish to withdraw from the greatest peace project in European history, and severely damage our capacity to work with like-minded countries to promote our values and protect our interests. Being a member of the European Union gives us an influence and a perspective we could never otherwise have.
Yes we anticipate that the Brexit negotiations will be difficult. Yes there are huge Irish issues and interests directly at stake. The Government is carefully preparing itself issue by issue and sector by sector to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland and for the EU in the upcoming negotiations.
There have also been suggestions that Ireland’s interests may somehow be ignored or over-ridden in the negotiations by the EU. The negotiations will be conducted under guidance and direction of the European Council, where consensus is required. I am very confident that Ireland’s interests will be fully reflected in the negotiations at every stage.
The Taoiseach, Minister Flanagan, myself, most of our colleagues in Government, our Embassy network across the EU, have all been and will continue to deeply engage with all of our EU colleagues to ensure that they understand Ireland’s particular needs and interests and the importance of what is at stake for us. We are working closely with Michel Barnier and his team and Michel Barnier has clearly stated that Ireland’s specific concerns will be factored into the negotiations.
Finally, logic and mutual self-interest point to a future EU-UK relationship which will be mutually beneficial. It will not be easy to achieve, and the road ahead may be bumpy. But with goodwill and common sense I believe it is achievable. The UK will remain our closest neighbour, and the European Union will remain our political and economic home.
Future of Europe
I want to conclude with some remarks on the Future of Europe which will be on the agenda of EU HOSG in Valletta on 3 February and for the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Rome in March.
All Member States agree that now is not the time for grand gestures or bold new institutional or Treaty initiatives. That makes strong and continued delivery on current priorities all the more important. It is essential that the Bratislava Process concludes in Rome in March with more than a simple repetition of existing commitments. We need a convincing narrative, based on solid achievements, that the Union is getting back on track.
The “euro-crisis”, the migration crisis, terror attacks in the EU itself, and then Brexit, any one of these on their own would have been sufficient to test the European Union. But coming in quick succession these issues have led to what might accurately be described as a “crisis of confidence”.
This “crisis of confidence” has occurred at three levels- the first is amongst our citizens, many of whom question the value and effectiveness of the Union and question whether the European Union makes their lives better, safer, more prosperous.
The second level is amongst European politicians and leaders; the scale of the crises and problems we are addressing have too often led statements or criticisms that question the very future existence of the Union,
The third level is a crisis of confidence around the world – many voices and commentators in the United States and elsewhere, see a Union that is weakened, internally focussed and we are all aware of voices that seek to exploit and encourage that sense of weakness and uncertainty.
The 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome presents us with a timely opportunity to address and dispel this “crisis of confidence”.
We must show and communicate unity, commitment and resolve that the EU is and will remain essential to the future peace and prosperity of our citizens, and an indispensable source of stability and core democratic values in the world.
A message of unity is very important, not least to show that Brexit does not and will not be allowed to define the EU in the period ahead. Ireland is in no doubt about the importance of the upcoming negotiations on the UK exit, but we cannot let it limit and overwhelm the European Union and our ability to chart our course for the future.
Our leaders should leave Rome in March with a clear concise endorsement of the value and achievements of the EU since its creation; a statement of determined unity of purpose that our future peace and prosperity can only and is best preserved and promoted through the European Union, and that the European Union, as a community of values, founded on the rule of law, democracy and human rights, is and will remain a bastion of these values in the world.