Brexit: Flanagan appears to contradict Villiers over Border

Taoiseach says Ireland must be ‘realistic’ concerning bilateral negotiations with UK

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said “the Border’s destiny would not be determined by the sole wishes of the Irish and British governments”, in apparent contradiction of comments by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. Photograph: Getty Images

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said “the Border’s destiny would not be determined by the sole wishes of the Irish and British governments”, in apparent contradiction of comments by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Nobody can say with certainty there will be no changes to the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if the UK votes to leave the EU, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has warned.

He said “the Border’s destiny would not be determined by the sole wishes of the Irish and British governments”, in apparent contradiction of comments by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.

Last week Ms Villiers, who favours a British exit, insisted the Border would be as “free-flowing” if the UK voted to leave, as it is currently. But Mr Flanagan said the future implications for Border arrangements “would depend heavily on the terms and conditions of a new relationship between the UK and the EU”, in the event of a vote to exit.

Rebuff

Brian Hayes

Mr Hayes said last week he was not convinced the Government was doing enough contingency planning on the referendum, and stressed Ireland would need a new agreement with the UK as well as with the EU in the event of a leave decision, to ensure Ireland would not be disadvantaged in key areas.

But introducing a day-long Dáil debate, Mr Kenny said that while the Government would continue to plan for contingencies, Ireland would have to be realistic about bilateral discussions. A future EU-UK agreement would set the overall framework. But a clear framework was already in place for bilateral co-operation between the Irish and UK governments under a 2012 arrangement.

He said he would publish a position paper next week on the implications of social welfare changes for Irish citizens in Britain that would come into effect if the UK voted to remain in the EU, including reducing child benefit to consumer price index levels in countries in which they are living; and limits on access to in-work benefits for people newly entering the market.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said “going it alone is not really an option when we talk about climate change, terrorism and the myriad other challenges.”

‘Rhetoric’

Independent TD Thomas Pringle criticised the Government for its call on British citizens in the State to vote to remain within the EU.

He said he found it very interesting to hear Government TDs giving voting advice to the 500,000 British citizens living here, given the outgoing Coalition had resisted including the 600,000 Irish-born people living in the UK in our elections.

“The common travel area predates the EU and if there is a Brexit vote it will make no difference to the current arrangement between the UK and Ireland,” Mr Pringle said.

PBP-AAA TD Richard Boyd Barrett said his group would meet in the next couple of weeks to make a decision on whether it would campaign either way in the referendum. The issue of a possible Brexit was serious, not just for Ireland and Britain but for the whole of the EU, he said.

Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman Sean Crowe, whose party favours remaining in the EU, acknowledged that “among many of the electorate in Britain, there is a genuine disaffection, dissatisfaction and disagreement with many of the things coming out of the EU”.