The EU-UK relationship has become unnecessarily challenging and needs to get onto a more solid foundation in advance of formal Brexit negotiations beginning next year, Mairead McGuinness MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament said in London Monday night (17th October).
Speaking at ‘London Debate 2016: The day after Brexit: Reinventing Britain’s Relationship with the EU’, Ms McGuinness said: “The UK has yet to clarify its view of the EU27 – does the U.K. wish to see the EU strengthened or weakened. This is a crucial point that needs urgent clarification.
“The tone of recent comments in the UK has made the situation more difficult. And given that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, has, along with his counterparts in Scotland and Wales, been left out of the UK Brexit Cabinet committee has heightened concerns around the status of the provinces in the minds of the Prime Minister and her closest allies.”
But she said given Ireland’s special relationship with the UK we could be influential here: “Given our history, our geography, our trade links, our language and our broad similarities in our socio-economic approach to public policy, Ireland is in a unique position to help influence and shape a more positive environment for the negotiations.”
That better relationships are restored is in the interest of Ireland, the UK and the EU, she said. “Negotiating a Brexit that will deliver the best outcome for Ireland, for the UK and for the most economically advantageous Ireland-UK relationship will require the most sophisticated of negotiation skills involving the changing of certain mindsets, an awareness of legacy issues and crucially, respect for the laws as they exist,” she said.
“For Ireland, it is of vital economic and societal importance that our close trading ties, our open land border and special historical relationship with our closest neighbour is fully understood and respected.
“This requires that our EU partners recognise and understand the importance of the relationship between Ireland and the UK,” Ms.McGuinness said.
She said some 30,000 people cross the border every day. Communities are living and working together peacefully along the border and want that to continue, towards greater future prosperity. “That must be our common goal and a common starting point in any negotiations,” she said.
“We must work to ensure that the best interests of our relationships with the UK – both trade and political – is secured in any exit deal. And we must be mindful of the importance of strengthening the EU by making it work better for people,” she added.