Saturday 24 June 2017

Oddly enough, our EU 'friends' don't think about us that much

Enda Kenny (left), Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire (right) and Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones at an emergency meeting of the British Irish Council in Cardiff Photo: Ben Birchall/PA
Enda Kenny (left), Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire (right) and Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones at an emergency meeting of the British Irish Council in Cardiff Photo: Ben Birchall/PA
John Downing

John Downing

Over a decade spent reporting from Brussels, I was periodically asked: "What do they think of us over there in Europe?" The real answer - very little and very seldom - would have been a conversation-killing social gaffe. Professionally, it would not have helped keep the door open and the lighting on a rather pleasant and interesting job.

But it was true, for all of that. Social Protection Minister and maybe future Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, hit the nail on the head a few days ago when he said senior ministers from other EU member states were not aware Ireland is remaining in the European Union. Some appeared to assume we would follow Britain in the wake of the referendum on June 23 last.

He had found this out at an informal ministers' meeting in Bratislava a few days previously. The meeting was part of Slovakia's first ever handling of the six-month EU rotating chairmanship, or presidency.

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