A letter to the Irish community
A letter to the Irish community in Britain from Ambassador Mulhall.
In the aftermath of the UK's referendum in EU membership, I am conscious that many in our community may be feeling some uncertainty about the future course of relations between Ireland and Britain and the status of the Irish community in this country. As Ambassador, I am mindful of these concerns and it is an important part of the Embassy's role to ensure that the Irish Government is aware of your interests and priorities and they are taken on board in the Government's approach to the coming negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU. We will be looking to a continuation of the unique status Irish people have long enjoyed in Britain. At the Embassy, we intend to maintain close contact with the Irish community all over this country and I am open to hearing from you about any concerns that may arise in the period ahead. You can find our contact information here - https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/great-britain/contact-us/
We, of course, accept the outcome of the referendum and our aim will be to minimise negative consequences for Ireland, for our economy and our trade, for Irish people in Britain, for the situation in Northern Ireland, for our relations with the UK, and for Europe. Ireland will, of course, be on the EU side of the table in these negotiations, seeking an outcome that will serve the EU well for the future.
In the coming negotiation between the EU and the UK, our Government will have four main priorities:
- We will want to preserve the advantages to both countries of the Common Travel Area which allows Irish and British citizens to live and work in each other's countries without restriction. This system has operated to our benefit since the formation of the Irish State. We need to ensure that nothing in the arrangements for the UK's exit from the EU will compromise this mutually-beneficial system of free movement.
- We want to protect the gains made in Northern Ireland and in north-south relations in Ireland on the back of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The fact is that when the UK leaves the EU, practically everyone in Northern Ireland will be entitled to an Irish passport and thus to be an EU citizen. This illustrates the unique circumstances pertaining in Northern Ireland. Enhanced ties between north and south in Ireland constitute a central pillar of the Good Friday Agreement. Anything that turns the clock back would, therefore, be deeply unwelcome. This is why it is so important to preserve an open border in Ireland. It is vital that the progress we have made in Northern Ireland, something from which both countries can take pride, is not put at risk as a consequence of the UK's decision to leave the EU.
- The economic relationship between our two countries is of great importance to Ireland. Any reduction in trade flows between us will have a negative impact on both sides of the Irish Sea and, for that reason, we hope that the UK will retain the closest possible trading relationship with the European Union, preferably as part of the single market and the customs union, so that strong flows of trade can continue to benefit both our economies.
- Ireland will continue to be an EU member with a commitment to preserving and building on the Union's distinguished record of achievement. We hope that the UK will be able to develop the kind of close, cooperative relationship with the EU that will serve all of our interests. We will miss the day-to0day cooperation with the UK around the negotiating table in Brussels where, for more than 40 years, out Ministers and officials have met, worked together and developed friendships that have helped our bilateral relations to grow and prosper.
In concluding, I want to stress the vital importance for Ireland of our relations with the UK which have never been any better than they are today. As we prepare for the UK's future exit from the EU, we want these positive ties to continue to serve us well in the future also. Irish people are represented in every walk of life here and have made a huge contribution to British society. We are committed to supporting the prosperity and wellbeing of our community as these complex future negotiations between the EU and the UK get underway in the coming year.
Daniel Mulhall is Ireland's Ambassador in London.