Wednesday 25 April 2018

Five things the Taoiseach said in his special address to the European Parliament

Varadkar gave a special speech as part of a series of leaders' addresses

Leo Varadkar press conference
Leo Varadkar press conference

Shona Murray

The Taoiseach gave a 20-minute address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this morning as part of a series of leaders' addresses.

He was the first head of government to do so. The President of the European Commission Jean Claude-Juncker and lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier were also present.

Here are five things he said:

1. On 'serving the interests of citizens'

In his speech, Taoiseach Varadkar called for the EU to "serve the interests" of all "citizens and not just corporations."

He also recommitted Ireland’s position at the centre of Europe and the euro and called for "even more free trade" and globalisation.

"Now is the time to fulfil the promise of the single market in other areas," he said.

"For example, insurance, mortgages and loans, so that people can get cheaper loans from European lenders and insurers if needs be," he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

He said; "Ireland is a founder member of the euro, and a founder member of the Single Market."

2. On Tax

On tax, he said such issues "should be determined by national governments, but equally true was the fact that corporations should pay their fair share of tax."

"We cannot tolerate a situation where large companies can avoid paying taxes anywhere."

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He said Ireland has already taken steps to close loopholes in our tax laws "and we will do more."

"I believe in more free trade agreements with third countries, and in completing monetary union," he told the audience of MEPs.

3. On Challenges to the EU

The Taoiseach said that Europe is at "decisive point in history" and despite all the upheavals of recent years – the rise of populism and euro-scepticism, nationalism and anti-democratic forces - "we meet in solidarity", with a renewed "sense of purpose."

The Taoiseach paid tribute to John Hume as "one of the greatest figures in Irish politics."

He said John Hume saw the EU as a "model and a vision for lasting peace".

He added how that model of "people working together with shared purpose and endeavour – spilling their sweat instead of their blood" –  could provide inspiration "in our own country".

4. On Ireland's Potential in the EU

Varadkar said the promise of Europe "unlocked the potential of Ireland and allowed us taking our place among the nations of the world."

He thanked the EU for recognising the unique situation of Northern Ireland and how Brexit affects Ireland.

5. On Ireland and Brexit

Taoiseach Varadkar pointed to the fact that citizens in Northern Ireland will remain to be EU citizens even after Brexit such is the unique position of the north.

He reiterated the importance of ensuring the UK translates the agreement in phase one of Brexit into a legal text and a withdrawal agreement.

He said EU membership brought Ireland from being the "least developed" member states when we joined to one of the "most prosperous" today.

"In unity there is security and cooperation there is strength, as we say is the Irish language; "Ni neart go cur le cheile."

He received a round of applause when he said Europe needs to "stick together" if we are to "protect what we have and export our values and world view."

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