With Ireland being one of the European Union countries most affected by the outcome of the UK referendum, the leader of Irish ALDE member party Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin TD, offered a speech at the Charetered Accountants Ireland on Thursday 16 February. In his speech, he spoke about Brexit as the defining challenge of this generation.
"Brexit is historic by any measure. It marks an attempt to return to a pre-World War II model of weak international organisations and bilateral trade agreements. You don’t need to know much history to know how that turned out last time. For Ireland it presents us with a direct challenge to a successful model of progress first set out by Seán Lemass nearly 60 years ago when he committed to opening our economy and society," he stated.
Focusing on the impact of Brexit in Ireland, Fianna Fail's leader said: "The ‘Hard Brexit’ which is now underway is, according to the ESRI, the worst possible scenario for Ireland. Without a coordinated series of actions to mitigate the impact will be profound."
"Next month negotiations will begin on the terms of Brexit. To face into these negotiations with any hope of success we have to set out our specific objectives and the principles which underpin our position. In doing this we have to repeat time and again that Brexit is more complex for Ireland than for any other country – and that includes the UK. In fact there are four distinct dimensions to the issues we need to address before the Brexit process is complete. These involve our North/South relations, our relations with Britain, our position in the European Union and, perhaps most importantly, our core economic model," he added.
Micheal Martin TD was clear though: Ireland will remain in the European Union. "The first of these is to be unequivocal in stating that Ireland is and will continue to be committed to full participation in the European Union. A small and peripheral nation has nothing to gain from a model of international relations founded on looser cooperation, limited legal enforcement and greater regulatory competition. A seat at the table and access to fair competition is not a threat to our sovereignty it enables our sovereignty. People investing in Ireland and using it as a European base must be assured that we will continue to have full and free access to what will remain one of the largest world markets – and that we will be a pro-enterprise voice when it comes to regulation."
On the issue of Northern Ireland, FF's leader stated: "An extra consideration is that UK residents in Northern Ireland will continue to have an automatic right to Irish citizenship and, therefore, to EU citizenship. This will be the largest concentration anywhere of EU citizens outside the EU’s border. I believe that some form of Special Economic Zone status should be sought for Northern Ireland and those counties which involve the most North/South trade. However this now appears unlikely."
Expressing his thoughts over possible future British-Irish relations, Martin said: "Our objective should be a clear one of having in place arrangements which oblige regular and structured discussions between our governments. This could be an evolution of the British-Irish Council or it could be something new along the lines of the Nordic Council of Ministers. That body has an independent secretariat and its members differ in terms of membership of the European Union and NATO. If we are to have real cooperation then it can’t be an afterthought and it can’t be optional."
"The challenge is to do everything possible to mitigate its immediate impacts and to put in place foundations for our long term prosperity. There is no evidence we can avoid any negative impacts but we now have to do everything possible to limit them. Now is the time when we must move from generalities to specific proposals to overcome the many threats posed by the decision of our neighbour to turn its back on rule-bound cooperation amongst European states," he concluded.
Read the whole speech on Fianna Fail's website.