Ireland can calm British doubts about EU, says Ambassador

Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 01:00

IRISH AMBASSADOR to Britain Bobby McDonagh has suggested Ireland could offer a “degree of reassurance” to Britain about EU membership in the face of spreading Euroscepticism.

Mr McDonagh said Ireland should argue for “maximum British EU involvement”, when he addressed the Institute of International and European Affairs yesterday. He said there was an increasing risk of a degree of British isolation in Europe.

“As Euroscepticism seems to spread even further in Britain, and the advocates for Europe appear less visible and audible, perhaps Ireland, as a well-regarded friend, can in a small way contribute some degree of reassurance to Britain about EU membership,” he said.

Mr McDonagh said Ireland and Britain tended to have quite different attitudes to the nature and direction of the union, and disagreed, sometimes strongly, on policy issues such as agriculture.

While the two states would never “constitute a camp in Brussels”, there were areas where they could work together.

“Increasingly perhaps Britain and Ireland should see each other as partners in the European Union as much as partners in the peace process and in business.”

Mr McDonagh said the strength of the modern British/Irish relationship was based on equality, “not equality in size but in sovereignty, not equality in power but in dignity”. He said the “ready willingness” of Britain to contribute to the EU-International Monetary Fund package for Ireland, and the fact that this was readily supported without controversy across the British political spectrum, was testament to the closeness of the economic and political relationship.

However, he said it was essential not to take the relationship between Ireland and Britain for granted. While there was no risk of falling back into the tensions and recriminations of the past, the relationship needed to be worked at if the full potential benefits were to be reaped.