Minister Flanagan meets British Foreign Secretary during London visit23/11/15
Today (Monday), in London, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, met with his UK counterpart, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to discuss the UK’s relationship with the EU, the migration and refugee situation in Europe and ongoing developments in the Ukraine.
On the UK’s membership of the European Union, Minister Flanagan stated:
“I am pleased that the negotiation process has intensified following the Prime Minister’s letter to the President of the European Council. We are committed to working together with Foreign Secretary Hammond and the British Government - as well as our other EU partners - to find solutions which might ultimately help to persuade the UK electorate to remain in the EU.
“The Foreign Secretary knows where we stand in terms of our wish for the UK to remain in the EU. He knows this from our previous meetings together and from the ongoing constructive engagement by the Taoiseach, myself and our officials.”
Referring to the recent successful conclusion of political talks in Belfast, Minister Flanagan added:
“Having recently spent ten weeks in Northern Ireland engaged in Talks to stabilise the power-sharing institutions and address the toxic legacy of paramilitarism, I am all the more conscious of the vital importance of UK membership of the EU for the island of Ireland, for myriad reasons.”
At the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Minister Flanagan and Foreign Secretary Hammond joined to address over 100 leading members of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, an important body representing the employers of 55,000 people across Britain and Ireland, with over €33 billion in business interests. The Chamber was set up with the support of both the Irish and British governments following the 2011 State Visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II.
Minister Flanagan encouraged the business representatives present to engage in the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU, saying business voices were essential in the debate to ensure that voters understood the issue, noting that the lesson had been learned in Irish referendums.
Both the Minister and Foreign Secretary emphasised the growing focus of their respective foreign ministries on economic and commercial work. Minister Flanagan, addressing the gathering, appealed for even greater ambition in the drive for increased Irish-British trade in goods and services, which amount to over €1 billion a week. Referring to the Irish Government’s ambitious plan to deliver full employment by 2020 and noting the critical role of exports in our ongoing economic recovery, Minister Flanagan said:
“Incredible as it seems now, there was no British Irish Chamber until 2011. So let’s get continue the networking and connecting. Let’s take that €1 billion a week of trade and work on getting it to €1.5 billion and higher still. Let that be our conversation for the years ahead.”
During his political contacts, Minister Flanagan also discussed Northern Ireland and the Fresh Start Agreement agreed in Belfast, which he co-facilitated along with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers MP. As well as Foreign Secretary Hammond, he met with the UK Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Vernon Coaker MP. Following this meeting, the Minister said:
“I value our ongoing contact with the Shadow Secretary of State and the ongoing constructive and bi-partisan approach taken within Westminster on Northern Ireland issues. This was a very useful opportunity to discuss the Fresh Start Agreement with Vernon Coaker who is a constructive partner in Northern Ireland affairs.”