Gilmore says long period of UK uncertainty not in anyone's interest


The UK could cede its place as one of the European Union’s major players if an EU referendum on membership in five years’ time creates doubt about its future, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said.

“A long period of uncertainty about the UK’s relationship with the EU is not in anyone’s interest – not the UK, not Ireland and not Europe.

“The economic uncertainty that it will create will be bad for all of us.

“This is actually about thousands of British jobs. And quite a few Irish jobs too,” Mr Gilmore told a London conference last night that debated Britain’s future in the EU.

“Come what may, Ireland’s position is clear. We will stay close to the UK, and we will stay at the heart of Europe,” Mr Gilmore said. “Britain must avoid having a debate with itself, only to find that when the debate concludes, others have moved on.”

Impact on Ireland

Emphasising that he was not seeking to interfere in the UK debate, Mr Gilmore said “discretion should not be confused with disinterest” since the decision will have an impact on Ireland.

Mr Gilmore was introduced by former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, who said he was part of “unlikely coalition that has shown extraordinary toughness and courageous leadership”.

President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy cautioned against the British belief that EU treaty talks allow for an opportunity to renegotiate Britain’s membership.

The rest of the EU will be prepared to “listen and then talk”, he told the Policy Network conference, but he declared that the talks will have to be with 26 others, “not just Brussels”.