Wednesday 26 October 2016

Ireland wasting no time building strong international links in the post-Brexit world

Published 08/07/2016 | 02:30

Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan TD Picture: Gerry Mooney
Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan TD Picture: Gerry Mooney

Two weeks on from the UK referendum, a lot of dust has yet to settle - above all within the UK itself. Here in Ireland, however, work got quickly under way on shaping the new environment, whereby we can remain at the heart of the EU while also retaining our close links to our British neighbours.

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Our priorities are clear as we implement contingency plans across Government and State agencies, summary details of which can be found on our central EU-UK information hub at the Government's Merrion Street website at

Above all, we are working harder than ever to ensure that stability and progress in the North is maintained. Our stated aim is to minimise any adverse impacts on our economy and on the free movement of people, goods and services on these islands. We are also working to ensure a strong EU-UK relationship in the future and a well-managed British withdrawal from the EU.

Over the weeks ahead, as active engagement continues with key contacts in Britain, Northern Ireland, the EU and further afield, we will also be putting the resources in place to manage this vitally important work.

We will know in September who the new British prime minister will be, along with the first indications of their negotiating stance.

In the months following, the formal EU exit process is likely to start. In the meantime, the EU structures and arrangements for the exit process should also be well-advanced and the negotiation of a new UK-EU relationship at the forefront of people's minds.

All of this is likely to take some years to complete, and until the exit process is complete it is important to emphasise that the UK will remain an EU member with all its present rights and obligations.

So where do we intend to arrive in terms of this new environment for Ireland, the UK and the EU?

First, we intend to protect the gains of the peace process on this island and to reflect the unique geographic and political circumstances of Northern Ireland, where the majority of people voted to remain in the EU.

This is something I've repeatedly emphasised in key meetings over the past two weeks in Belfast and in Dublin, and something I will take to Brussels, London, Berlin and other EU capitals in the months ahead.

Secondly, we intend to listen to the concerns of all stakeholders, as we find a way to respond to current international uncertainties.

These include the job-creators here at home who now have to respond to uncertain market conditions.

My department, its embassies and consulates abroad and their partners in the State agencies, such as Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia, will assist in every way possible.

I will convene agencies and employer representatives for an actions-focused meeting of the Government's Export Trade Council later this month; the Council proved a valuable forum in the lead-up to the UK vote. This practical work in support of our entrepreneurs, investors, food producers, tourism providers and others will be backed up by a focus within the EU on continuing our open trading relationship with the UK, while supporting further diversification to wider European and global markets.

Our key stakeholders include the Irish community in Britain, whose concerns I, the Taoiseach and other ministers have engaged with as we visited towns and cities across our neighbouring island in recent months. We are determined to respond to these concerns as settlements are reached at EU level and between Britain and Ireland.

Finally, Ireland will remain at the heart of the EU and the Eurozone, and I have been making this clear to governments and business partners around the world.

I was heartened to see strong public support in recent surveys for our EU membership, confirming our people's view of Ireland as a strong, confident, globally open nation, close to its neighbours but linked to the world as a whole.

We may not yet know exactly what the future is going to look like, but we do know that with prudent planning and the careful use of our strong international relationships, we will navigate the post-Brexit landscape.

Charlie Flanagan is Minister for Foreign Affairs

Irish Independent

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