Government urged to take stronger stance over Brexit

Brian Hayes MEP says Ireland needs to begin forging alliances with other "like-minded" states to ensure the best outcome in upcoming Brexit negotiations

Government urged to take stronger stance over Brexit

File photo | Image:

The government is facing calls to push for greater involvement in the Brexit debate following further indications Britain is preparing for a “hard Brexit.”

The Sterling fell to its lowest level against the dollar for over two months this morning following British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s first televised interview of the year.

Speaking to Sky News, Mrs May said Britain could not expect to hold on to “bits of EU membership.”

“Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU,” she said.

“We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.”

She said Britain would be able to control immigration and “be able to set our rules for people coming to the UK from member states of the European Union.”

She also indicated the country would not be able to remain within the European single market - and would have to negotiate a new trade deal.

The comments have led to calls for the Irish government to take a more “robust” place in the debate ahead of the formal triggering of the process.

Special informal Brexit coalition

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has called on the government to “get ahead of the curve” and begin forging alliances with other like-minded EU member states before negotiations begin.

Hayes said the Irish government needs to be “proactive and armed with a clear set of priorities reflecting Ireland’s needs” ahead of the negotiations.

“We certainly cannot sit back and expect that Ireland will automatically get special treatment from EU partners in this negotiation,” he said.

He warned that negotiations will be happening “exclusively in Brussels, not Dublin or London” adding that if Ireland fails to form alliances within the negotiations, “we could be left extremely isolated.”

He said Ireland has “very strong ties” with the Benelux countries, Scandinavian countries and the Baltics - and said those states “have been been echoing similar messages to us on how Brexit should proceed.”

“We cannot forge some sort of bilateral deal with the UK and hope that this will be agreed to by our other EU partners,” he said.

“We need to solidify partnerships with these like-minded Member States and make sure we are on the same page.”

Mr Hayes warned that there will be other member states that will look to “play hardball with the UK” and said Ireland needs to “get ahead of the curve” and begin forming alliances to get the best results for Ireland. 

Special status for Northern Ireland within the EU

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty said it is now time for the government to “take seriously the demand for special designated status within the EU for the North.”

File Photo, Sinn Féin spokesperson on finance, Pearse Doherty. Image: Brian Lawless PA Wire/PA Images

Mr Doherty said a hard Brexit would cause “huge political, social and economic damage to the whole island of Ireland” and argued that “partition has been a failure- politically, socially and economically.”

In Northern Ireland 55.8% of the population voted to remain within the EU.

“Sinn Féin credibly believes that the north should be designated special status within the EU and that the whole island of Ireland could remain within the EU together,” said Mr Doherty.

He said it is “quite obvious” the British government is on “a collision course with the EU in which our economy and successive peace process agreements are regarded as collateral damage.”

“We are seeking to initiate a genuine and inclusive debate about the reunification of Ireland and the prospects for new constitutional, political and economic arrangements which better serve Ireland,” he said.

“The Irish Government must join this debate and robustly defend the rights of all citizens on this island against a reckless and foolhardy British Government who only cares about English interests.

Mr Doherty called for , "an Irish solution to what is an English problem.”

“We cannot leave it up to the EU or to Britain to look out for Ireland and protect Irish interests," he said. "That is the Irish Government's duty and they must do this resolutely in the upcoming negotiations."