The final outcome of the Brexit process, including details of the future UK relationship with the EU, will depend on the atmosphere of the talks and the ability of both sides to put citizens interests first and foremost, Mairead McGuinness MEP for Kildare and first Vice-President of the European Parliament told a Fine Gael public meeting on Brexit, last night (Monday) at the Westgrove Hotel, Clane and attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, among others.
Ms McGuinness told the meeting that extensive recognition of the unique position and special circumstances of the island of Ireland is part of the European Parliament’s official position, adopted by an overwhelming majority of MEPs just last week.
“Ireland is the only EU27 country to be specifically highlighted in the Parliament’s strategy,” she said.
“The fishing and agri-food sectors are areas in which we have the most deeply entwined economic relationships with Northern Ireland and the UK and the depth of their reach is unparalleled and quite unique. The equine sector is also crucial for Kildare and its needs must be fully articulated in the debate.
“We will have to reach an agreement on the exit and also a new trading relationships – these are complex negotiations and will be very challenging,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said the UK political situation where those in power feel compelled to appease the most extreme Brexiteers is a challenge and a concern.
“That is going to be among the greatest challenges because there will be pressure for a hard Brexit, from those in the British Conservative party who believe that the UK will prosper outside the EU by “going global”.
“The only way to counteract it is the promotion over and over again of compelling facts to inform and enlighten so that no one, except those who will refuse to listen anyway, will be left in any doubt that a soft Brexit and respectful co-operation is in the interests of Ireland, the UK and the EU.”
She said there is a long and tough road ahead over the next number of years. “There cannot be any let up because the stakes are too high,” she said.
On the future of Europe, McGuinness said it is time for people to take ownership of the EU and defend its values.
“We need to see a grass roots movement in support of Europe, and perhaps now as the consequences of Brexit emerge, this will happen.
“The future of the EU is in the hands of its citizens and young people have a special responsibility to take charge of their futures within a vibrant and reformed EU,” she said.
The European Parliament must give its consent by simple majority to any Withdrawal Agreement.
The European Council will review last week’s European Parliament position before adopting the EU’s negotiating mandate at a meeting of EU leaders later this month on April 29th.