Charlie Flanagan in keynote Brexit address in Belfast
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday delivered the keynote address at a Belfast conference on Brexit and its consequences.
Mr Flanagan was invited to open the Brexit: A Risky Business event hosted by the Institute of Europe and International Affairs and sponsored by Dublin firm McCann Fitzgerald.
He also discussed the aftermath of a Remain vote during his short trip to Northern Ireland, The Irish Times reports.
He said he was confident that, in the event that the UK chose to remain within the EU, Irish people working in Britain would not be disadvantaged by changes to the British welfare system, despite concerns from the European Commission on the legality of exempting Irish citizens from in-work benefit restrictions.
Ahead of the Brexit conference, Mr Flanagan said: “Much has been said about the economic and Northern Ireland dimensions of a possible withdrawal by the UK from the EU, and quite rightly.
“While these are issues of paramount importance in the debate, particularly from an Irish standpoint, it is important not to lose sight of the valuable role of the UK within the European Union and the need for this to be addressed in the debate.
“The EU has provided a forum for Ireland and the UK to work closely together on a wide range of issues, from promoting the completion of the digital single market and promoting policies that support jobs to cooperation on tackling the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and mutual assistance in consular cases, particularly at times of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
“The UK has contributed a huge amount to the EU over the last four decades of membership and the Irish Government, backed by a chorus of voices around the UK, Ireland and the EU itself, firmly holds that the EU is far better off with 28 members states working together to deliver for our citizens.
“The effectiveness, the internal balance and the credibility of the EU itself would be damaged by a British departure. The EU will be stronger with the UK as a fully engaged member state in the years ahead.”