MEP says EU is ‘standing behind’ Ireland as no-deal Brexit looms

Philippe Lamberts says Ireland is between ‘a rock and a hard place’ in Brexit negotiations

Solidarity between Ireland and the European Union is "two way" and other member states will expect the integrity of the single market to be protected, a member of the European Parliament's Brexit committee has said.

Philippe Lamberts, a Green MEP who sits on the European Parliament's six-member Brexit steering group, said the EU will not back down and make concessions to the UK in the coming weeks.

He said the EU single market must be protected, adding: “We would rather bite the bullet of a no-deal Brexit rather than bite the bullet of destroying the single market because that second bullet is a lasting one and a bigger one than no-deal Brexit.”

Mr Lamberts is being hosted in Dublin by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. He also met Mr Varadkar on Thursday evening.


Commitment of Irish democracy

Mr Lamberts declined to say if checks will be needed between Ireland and Northern Ireland if there is a no-deal Brexit, but insisted the single market must be protected.

"I note the commitment of Irish democracy across political parties to the European Union is very strong, very strong," he said at a briefing in Leinster House. "I also know that most of the Irish politicians I am talking with – well, all of them actually – recognise that the Good Friday Agreement is a crucial part of political life, no, it's people's lives.

“But likewise they recognise that the integrity of the single market is crucial as well. And if there is one country that is caught between a rock and hard place it is this. Now, even just assume that at a point in time, the Taoiseach would say: ‘Well, to hell with the single market, let’s keep the Good Friday Agreement at any cost. And if that means, well, doing anything to please the hard Brexiteers, well there will be 26 other member states who won’t see it that way.

“So yes, we are standing by the Irish government so we know the Irish government is standing by us as well. So it is a two way solidarity.”

He said he did not think Dublin or the EU will “blink” in the coming weeks.

“A good example is the Greek crisis. If you look at the actions of the heads of state and government, they were always geared to – you might say to protect the big banks, that is true – but to protect the integrity of the monetary union. They did whatever it took to keep it. In this case, I think they will do whatever it takes to protect the integrity of the single market. It is not just a feature of the European Union, it is a foundation.”