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Minister Flanagan calls for cordial, constructive Brexit negotiations

Flanagan: The relationship between the UK and the EU will change, but we need to retain positive links

- Minister Flanagan calls for cordial, constructive Brexit negotiations

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, has said that any misconceptions that the EU wants to “punish” the UK should be put to bed quickly, and that the negotiations should be constructive and conclusive. Addressing a conference on Brexit at the School of Law and Government at DCU, he also told the audience of academics, journalists and opinion formers that the widespread recognition of the value of EU membership was evidenced by the increased demand for Irish passports. 

In the opening keynote address to the conference, Minister Flanagan stated:

“Negotiations between the EU and the UK will shortly get underway, and of course this week we have had the announcement of a general election in the UK. We are embarking on a journey that potentially has far-reaching consequences, for Ireland, for the EU but most particularly for the UK.  It is still with a huge sense of personal regret that I address myself to this topic. My view – and the view of the Irish Government – is that Brexit is bad for Britain, bad for Ireland and bad for Europe. But equally, we recognise that the result of the referendum of 23 June last must be respected.

“I know this is a view shared by our European partners. I think President Tusk captured that mood of collective resolve, tinged with regret, in his personal remarks after setting out the EU’s response to Theresa May’s letter – “… what can I add to this? We already miss you.

“While commentary in the immediate aftermath of the referendum leaned towards a narrative of “punishing” the UK – reflecting a fear that a good deal for the UK would set a precedent that others might follow - we have seen the emphasis shift. The perspective is not about punishing those who leave, but highlighting, protecting and consolidating the benefits of EU membership for those who remain. I think it is fair to say that the political perspective in the UK has also evolved – away from the rhetoric of the campaign and towards laying the foundation for a positive future relationship with the EU. “

The Minister referred to the extensive engagement by the Irish Government with the EU and the UK:

“Since the referendum, I, along with the Taoiseach and my Government colleagues, have been engaging intensively with our EU partners to ensure that the unique Irish perspective on Brexit is understood - over 400 engagements and counting across government at either political or senior official level. I am pleased that our efforts have yielded results – in the strong recognition in the draft European Council guidelines of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland,  references to Ireland in Theresa May’s letter of notification, and in the supportive language in the European Parliament’s resolution as regards Ireland’s unique concerns."

He acknowledged that the negotiations would be complex, but expressed optimism that they will be constructive:

“While I will not pretend that the EU and the UK are on the same page on all issues; I do take heart from the fact that the story of the past ten months has been more about convergence than divergence compared to where we started on 24 June 2016:  A convergence of views amongst the EU27 on promoting a strong EU and adopting a unified approach to the negotiations, and convergence of views between the EU and the UK on the desire for a close partnership in the future and the need to avoid a disorderly exit. Therefore, Ireland strongly believes that a transitional arrangement should be agreed as part of the withdrawal process, in order to provide legal certainty and to avoid what has been termed as a “cliff edge” scenario, including with regard to trade, customs and other key sectors."

He also referenced one of the issues that will affect Ireland – and no other country:

“Another issue that finds no parallel elsewhere in Europe is the provision within the Good Friday Agreement that recognises “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves – and be accepted as – Irish, or British, or both.” In essence, this means that virtually everyone born in Northern Ireland can of right choose to be an Irish citizen and therefore a citizen of the European Union.

“Over the past weeks, since the Assembly election in Northern Ireland, I have been engaged in talks at Stormont Castle, aimed at forming a power-sharing executive. I believe that, at this critical and challenging time for Northern Ireland as we approach negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the restoration of a power-sharing Executive is essential.  I am travelling to Belfast immediately after this engagement to meet again with the parties in the hope that it may still be possible to make a final push to conclude the talks successfully in the coming days."

Finally, he saw a silver lining in the challenge of increased demand for Irish passports:

“I might venture that the 68% rise in requests from Britain and Northern Ireland for Irish passports in the first quarter of this year gives rise for optimism.  EU citizenship is valued. So long as delivering for our citizens is at the heart of what we do, I have every confidence that the EU will emerge stronger and more united in the future."


Press Office
20 April 2017