Today, during Statements in Dáil Éireann on UK/EU Relations, Deputy Broughan stated that while he is hopeful that the UK electorate choose to remain as part of the EU in their referendum on June 23rd, he also welcomes the opportunity for discussions on overall EU reform. It is widely believed that a ‘Brexit’ will have a detrimental impact on Ireland’s economy as a large proportion of our service and merchandise exports are to the UK (at 18% and 15% respectively), we have very high numbers of migratory flows between the two countries and over 90% of our imported energy products were from the UK in 2014 (totalling €6.5billion and equating to 3.6% of GDP). However, discussions around the UK’s membership of the EU has brought an opportunity for serious debate around reforms needed to increase the accountability of Europe and the role of MEPs in their own national parliaments.
The UK has been a member of the European Union since 1973 and has certainly benefited from this membership in terms of human rights, environmental and climate change policies, trade opportunities, investment and free movement of people. During the Maastricht Treaty negotiations in 1992 the UK secured an ‘opt-out’ option for a European single currency, the Euro, and has continued to be part of the European Union while maintaining their own currency of the pound. The true impact of this decision on the overall success of the single currency will be never be known yet now as a full ‘Brexit’ looms, speculators from both the ‘Leave’ and ‘In’ camps, as well as those on the outside, are preparing for the ramifications of the British electorate choosing to ‘Leave’. A recent referendum in the Netherlands regarding trade barriers with the Ukraine was overwhelming rejected and despite a low voter turnout of 32% it is seen by many as a reflection of the Eurosceptic sentiment being felt across the EU lately.
Deputy Broughan highlighted the accountability and relevance of the European Union during his speech. He cited the fact that the European Council is not even aware of the disastrous housing crisis that Ireland is experiencing at the moment and also the mess that has been created by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael agreeing with EU-Directives that water must be taxed (leading to a commodity which in downturns can then be privatised as we have seen in other European countries). The negotiations around the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are reportedly being ‘accelerated’ yet a proper national discussion on the impact of this has not been discussed here in Dáil Éireann.
Deputy Broughan says “My hope for the UK’s referendum result is that the electorate choose to remain in the EU but that the conversation continues at a European level on the reforms needed to address the challenges facing the union. Some reforms that I believe are needed are to firstly end the EU-Turkey deal on migrants immediately, to pause TTIP negotiations until further investigations can be completed and full briefings are given to all members of all national parliaments, to restore greater autonomy over certain aspects of national interest (in particular financial) and to create greater accountability for MEPs and the Council in reporting to national parliaments.”