Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy will travel to Paris tomorrow for talks with French government ministers as Ireland embarks on a period of bilateral engagement with EU member states in the wake of the British referendum. With Taoiseach Enda Kenny due in Berlin next Tuesday for discussions with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Murphy will tomorrow meet his French counterpart, Europe minister Harlem Desir, and minister for digital affairs Axelle Lemaire.
Speaking in Strasbourg where he held meetings with Irish MEPs and senior members of the European People’s Party (EPP), Mr Murphy said he intended to press the point with the French government that now is not the time to “shrink into protectionism”.
"The UK was a voice for promoting an open, competitive dynamic European Union. There would be a different view coming from other countries, particularly from France, " he said. "We will be going with a view to encouraging them to think about the benefits of the digital single market, to assure them that this is not a threat to the larger countries, but that we are losing competitiveness globally because the European Union collectively has not actually embraced the digital age we're living in."
Mr Murphy said now was “not the time for Europe to engage in significant navel-gazing about institutional changes, reforms and treaties”. Instead the European Union should focus on some of the positive initiatives that have already been agreed, such as the capital markets union, the single market for services and the digital market.
Mr Murphy met with senior figures from the European Parliament in Strasbourg today in a bid to set out Ireland's position ahead of the Brexit negotiations, including Manfred Weber, the head of the European People's Party (EPP), Joseph Daul, the president of the EPP group, and Klaus Welle, the secretary general of the European Parliament.
Separately, Sinn Féin MEPs have said they will work to highlight the specific issues pertaining to Northern Ireland from the British referendum at the European Parliament.
Liadh Ní Riada this week tabled an amendment to the EU’s seven-year budget, the MFF, calling for Northern Ireland peace funding to be protected.
“It is vital that current and future peace funding is protected and that financial commitments are honoured. The fact that the amendment secured the support of the overwhelming number of MEPs indicates the level of support we are getting from other MEPs,” the Ireland South MEP said.
Martina Anderson said she had raised the Northern Irish issue with European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday following his address to the European Parliament. "We are arguing that the democratic wishes of the people of the North must be respected. I've been inundated with contact from across the two nations. People who haven't engaged with Sinn Féin want us to pledge to continue to fight this. The almost 57 per cent of those who voted to remain did so across the political divide."
Lynn Boylan said she intended to establish a working group on Brexit with other Irish MEPs.
“It’s important that Irish MEPs put politics aside and work together in whatever role the European Parliament plays in the negotiations, that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet and put Ireland’s interest first.”