Sunday 23 October 2016

Foreign ministers think Ireland is set to leave the EU

Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30

Leo Varadkar (Picture: Tom Burke)
Leo Varadkar (Picture: Tom Burke)

Senior ministers from other EU member states are not aware that Ireland is remaining in the European Union, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has said.

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He was approached by a number of his counterparts at a recent EU meeting in Slovakia who did not realise "we're staying in Europe".

Mr Varadkar said he was asked a serious of "unusual questions" and a big diplomatic effort is now needed to reassure other countries of our position.

"Some of them were asking me 'is Ireland going to leave the European Union as well?'. So I had to make it very clear that our place is in Europe, our home is in Europe.

"Europe's a big place now. There are 28 members and we're a small country. There's a big diplomatic offensive underway now to first of all reassure everyone in politics, in business and everything else that Ireland made its decision a long time ago," he said.

The minister added that he believes Ireland made its commitment to the EU by joining the Euro currency when Britain opted out.

"We are staying in Europe, it's our home, we helped to build it and we're staying at the heart of Europe," he said.

The Dublin West TD welcomed comments by French President François Hollande that Ireland needs a central role in the Brexit negotiations but said work was still needed to convince other EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"He has recognised that Ireland is a special case when it comes to Brexit. I think that's evidence because of the peace process in Northern Ireland, because of the fact we have a land border, and also because of the free travel and free labour market conditions that existed between the Britain and Ireland going back hundreds of years, long before either of us joined the European Union," he said.

"It's our job now to actually convince not just Angela Merkel but all leaders in Europe that this impacts on Ireland in a way it doesn't on any other country. That's part of the diplomatic offensive that's underway."

During his speech to the MacGill Summer School earlier this week, Mr Varadkar indicated his belief that a Border poll to reunite Ireland will happen during his lifetime.

However, he yesterday refused to put a timeline on when that might happen.

"I don't know. My guess is as good as yours," he told reporters, adding that a referendum now would be "unsuccessful".

Irish Independent

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