Minister addresses Irish community in London over EU vote

Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy said Ireland and Britain were deeply connected

Minister Dara Murphy: his was the fifth visit to Britain by Government Ministers in the last two weeks ahead of the referendum on June 23rd. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Minister Dara Murphy: his was the fifth visit to Britain by Government Ministers in the last two weeks ahead of the referendum on June 23rd. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

Dozens of Irish citizens and local residents gathered in the Haringey Cultural Centre in North London last night, as the Government stepped up its efforts to encourage Irish people to vote in next week’s EU referendum.

At an event hosted by British Labour MP David Lammy, Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy said Ireland and Britain were deeply connected through the ties of trade, history and the common travel area.

“We fully accept and acknowledge that this is of course a matter for the people of the United Kingdom. but it is a referendum that will have consequences for us, as your neighbouring nation and indeed for the European Union itself.”

Consequences

Noting that €1.2 billion of trade crosses the Irish Sea each week, directly supporting 400,000 jobs, he said the economic consequences of a British exit from the EU would be “quite significant”, adding that British exports to Ireland exceed British exports to China and India combined.

He said that while no one knew the true impact a British exit would have on the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, “it appears inconceivable that there would not be some changes that would restrict the movement of people in both directions”.

Members of the Irish community, local residents and a number of Labour Party supporters were present at the event which was also attended by newly elected deputy mayor of London, Joanne McCartney.

Asked by one audience member about the EU’s proposed trade deal with the US and its implications for democracy, Mr Murphy acknowledged that there was public disquiet about the deal, but that member states were directly involved in shaping the trade deal which would have to be approved by each country.

Ireland’s Ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall said that while there had been much discussion in Britain about the erosion of sovereignty, “there is absolutely nothing inconsistent in being independent, fully sovereign and also being a member of the EU”.

Passports

A number of attendees said they had recently applied for Irish passports ahead of the British referendum. One Belfast native, who has been living in Britain since the early 1970s, said the prospect of a British exit from the EU had prompted him to apply for his Irish passport to ensure he could continue to travel freely within the EU in the event of a British exit.

Last night’s event marked the fifth visit undertaken by Government Ministers in the last two weeks ahead of the referendum on June 23rd, with Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, Minister of Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan meeting members of the Irish community in Britain in recent weeks.

Mr Murphy is due to meet his counterpart, British Europe minister David Lidington, today for talks, which will include discussions on the common travel area.