Tory Brexiteer says Irish no fonder of Brussels than Britain is
Conservative Andrew Rosindell hopes EU will not come between Britain and Ireland
File photo of Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Tory Brexiteers were not for turning at a gathering of Irish and British parliamentarians in Kilkenny focused on the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, who is co-chairperson of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) with Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion, continued to rail against “control” from Brussels.
“There’s no going back on Brexit, ” he told The Irish Times during a break in discussions.
Mr Rosindell said he hoped the EU would not harm British-Irish relations by acting in an inflexible and unreasonable manner.
“They’ve frightened a lot of people. People really do believe that Britain leaving the EU, it’s all going to be a catastrophe. We’re out to prove that isn’t going to happen.”
He said Irish people did not “love the bureaucrats in Brussels” any more than the British, so he believed a debate about Ireland’s membership of the EU would happen here soon.
Mr Rosindell listened impassively as guest speaker Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman, spoke passionately in defence of so-called “faceless Brussels bureaucrats” to whom she owed the chance she got “to play a role in the public sphere as a journalist and then in public service”.
Ireland was forced to lift the marriage bar for women working in the public service in 1973, two years before she left school. “Losing control had its upside,” she said.
However, Ms O’Reilly made a crucial point about the difference between demographic cohorts in a questions-and-answers session following her speech: that millennials do not view the EU in the way baby boomers did.
“For my generation certainly in Ireland, because we benefited obviously visibly so much from that, so our experience has been good, but that experience has to be replicated for all the new sets of 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds.”
This was particularly the case in countries with high youth unemployment rates, she said.
“I hate quoting Bono, but Bono did say . . . ‘Europe is a thought that has to become a feeling.’ So I can go around with nice, warm, fuzzy feelings about the EU when people in other countries might not feel so warm or so fuzzy about it.”
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the discussions, Scottish Parliament member John Scott, of the Conservative Party, described himself as a disappointed remainer who had subsequently adopted a pragmatic approach.
“We have to turn what was perhaps regarded as a challenge into an opportunity. That is the trick of life,” he said.
One thing is clear. The traditionally anaemic discussions of BIPA have been replaced by more spirited encounters since the UK’s historic decision last June.
Darren Millar, a Conservative Brexiteer from the National Assembly for Wales, insisted he was “still very optimistic” about Brexit as the second round of formal talks got under way in Brussels.
“At the start of any negotiating period, you always get a bit of arm flexing and people playing bluff at different times, particularly in front of the media.
“But behind closed doors I think things are much more cordial and much more amicable. And I think that’s why I’m confident that we’ll be able to strike a deal which is beneficial to everybody.”