The United Kingdom is a few weeks away from the triggering of Article 50. I asked the Minister about this issue in the past. Obviously, the second largest net contributor to the European Union will be leaving, which will result in some residual costs and contributions. As a result of the 2015 revision of our GDP statistics, we were due to pay perhaps an additional €300 million this year. Has the position on our EU contribution become any clearer?
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.
I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to briefly discuss the Brexit issue. A Brexit would not be in our national interest and there are so many areas where it would make our economic and political future much more difficult than it might be otherwise. However, the debate in the UK is valuable and the British people must be commended on their courage in considering all aspects of the European Union at this time. If they decide to vote for a Brexit, it would bring fundamental change, but it is valuable at least to have the general debate on how Europe operates and particularly the accountability and transparency of European institutions.