Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond has stressed that Ireland will be the United Kingdom’s bridge to the EU in a post-Brexit world. However, he added that securing a deal on a future relationship will be vital to this.
Deputy Richmond, party spokesperson on European Affairs, was addressing an online conference of the Conservatives for Europe alongside former cabinet ministers, William Hague and David Liddington.
Deputy Richmond said: “It might not always seem like it, but Ireland is and will be the UK’s best friend within the EU, regardless of the rhetoric of certain extreme groups both in Ireland and Great Britain.
“There is no such thing as a good Brexit, but it is vital that a deal is secured in the coming days in order to limit the damage of Brexit and it is vital to the future relationship.
“This can be achieved but requires an element of realism to be injected into the negotiations, perhaps from Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself.”
Deputy Richmond continued: “Parallel to this, the EU continues to have very serious concerns over the Internal Market Bill that undermines the Withdrawal Agreement.
“Surely it is not in the interest of the UK to have its first act outside the EU to be a decision to break international law? The amendments from the House of Lords, including Lord Hague, are thus very welcome.
“All those matters to one side, how Ireland acts as the UK’s best friend within the EU can be achieved quite easily beyond warm words.
“The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement absolutely provide for a template that is unique to Ireland and the UK, without undermining the common EU approach.
“We should be ambitious and inventive for these institutions. There should be a formal calendar of meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, the British-Irish Council and the North-South Ministerial Council.
“The Prime Minister and Taoiseach should have scheduled meetings set out months in advance, not just when a crisis emerges.
“These institutions can all allow for a far greater level of cooperation than any other EU Member State could enjoy, but they require clear structures and formality.
“Could sectoral meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference or the British-Irish Council be scheduled to shadow the calendar of the Council of the EU?
“The EU will be a much lesser place without the UK but it is in everyone’s interests as well as a geographic requirement to maintain the closest ties possible.
“Indeed, Ireland should be the EU Member State most keen to allow for a possible move to re-join by the UK in the future. The light should always remain on,” Deputy Richmond concluded.