'People afraid to upset British ahead of Brexit vote' - Hayes
Published 14/01/2016 | 02:30
British politicians need to realise that the referendum on their membership of the EU is not only about them, MEP Brian Hayes has said.
Addressing a Lords House Committee inquiry taking place in Brussels, he said the lead-up to the Brexit vote was having a destabilising effect on the union.
"People are watching over their back not to upset the British ahead of the referendum," he said.
The committee has already held hearings in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and yesterday moved to Brussels where Mr Hayes represented the European People's Party (EPP) at an oral hearing.
He told them that if a 'Brexit' took place it would cause "enormous disruption to British-Irish relations".
Speaking to the Irish Independent afterwards, he said: "They have to understand that it's not all about them. Too often it's all about them and they forget about the rest of us.
"They need to realise that it's more than just them."
The Fine Gael representative, who is his party's director of elections, said many British people did not seem to believe that other EU member states shared their concerns.
He said there was a broad expectation in the European Parliament that solid responses to David Cameron's key requests for reform of the union would be in place for the next meeting of EU leaders on February 18.
"I would expect a deal would be done at that meeting," said Mr Hayes.
Mr Cameron wants guarantees that bureaucracy in the EU will be reduced.
The key sticking point concerns the entitlements given to migrants who travel throughout Europe for work.
In his address to the committee, Mr Hayes said Britain had never fully understood why Europe had needed the EEC, now the EU.
"Much of the progress we have made since joining the EU, both with the economy and with Northern Ireland, is due to our membership," he said.
"Europe allowed us to get over our attitude to Britain as Big Brother on our doorstep."
Meanwhile, European Commission economists have been banned from researching the impact of Britain leaving the 28-nation bloc.
They are not even allowed to talk about it, for fear of getting embroiled in the heated British debate ahead of a referendum, officials have said.
"There is an internal order not to discuss or study the impact of a Brexit," a senior official said, adding that the instruction had come from the office of European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker.