Flanagan says UK should not be punished for "bad" Brexit decision

The foreign affairs minister says an uptake in Irish passports shows EU membership is valued

Flanagan says UK should not be punished for "bad" Brexit decision

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan at the Department for Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House, Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan says no one should want to "punish" Britain for leaving the European Union.

He has called for cordial, constructive Brexit negotiations.

Addressing a conference on Brexit at Dublin City University (DCU), he said: "We are embarking on a journey that potentially has far-reaching consequences, for Ireland, for the EU but most particularly for the UK.

"My view - and the view of the Irish Government - is that Brexit is bad for Britain, bad for Ireland and bad for Europe.

"But equally, we recognise that the result of the referendum of June 23rd last must be respected."

"The perspective is not about punishing those who leave, but highlighting, protecting and consolidating the benefits of EU membership for those who remain.

"I think it is fair to say that the political perspective in the UK has also evolved - away from the rhetoric of the campaign and towards laying the foundation for a positive future relationship with the EU."

'Irish perspective is understood'

Mr Flanagan also referred to extensive engagement by the Irish Government with the EU and the UK.

"Since the referendum, I, along with the Taoiseach and my government colleagues, have been engaging intensively with our EU partners to ensure that the unique Irish perspective on Brexit is understood - over 400 engagements and counting across government at either political or senior official level."

He says they have seen results "in the strong recognition in the draft European Council guidelines of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, references to Ireland in Theresa May's letter of notification, and in the supportive language in the European Parliament’s resolution as regards Ireland’s unique concerns."

He acknowledged that while negotiations would be complex, he is optimistic.

"I do take heart from the fact that the story of the past ten months has been more about convergence than divergence compared to where we started on June 24th 2016".

Irish passport surge

He told the audience widespread recognition of the value of EU membership was seen by increased demand for Irish passports.

"I might venture that the 68% rise in requests from Britain and Northern Ireland for Irish passports in the first quarter of this year gives rise for optimism.

"EU citizenship is valued. So long as delivering for our citizens is at the heart of what we do, I have every confidence that the EU will emerge stronger and more united in the future."

And touching on the talks at Stormont, he said: "I believe that, at this critical and challenging time for Northern Ireland as we approach negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the restoration of a power-sharing executive is essential."