Irish Brexit concerns will be heard, insists Merkel ally

Berlin will listen ‘closely’ to Dublin once London triggers divorce proceedings, says MEP

Ireland's Brexit concerns will play a prominent role when Germany and its EU partners open talks with Britain, a German MEP and ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, David McAllister, has insisted.

Mr McAllister, vice-president of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the EU parliament, said Berlin will listen “very closely” to Dublin once London triggers divorce proceedings.

“I know the chancellor knows very well the particular role Ireland plays in talks and the particular attention we will have to give to Ireland and Northern Ireland,” said Mr McAllister, a former state premier in Lower Saxony, who is in Dublin on Tuesday to address the International Institute for European and International Affairs.

The 45 year-old is a prominent figure among the younger generation of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU). And as a German politician with a Scottish father, he describes the Brexit vote as “the saddest political decision” he can remember in his life.


“I still hope that there is some possibility that this decision might not be carried out but one has to be realistic that all the signals are that the UK wants to leave the EU,” he said.

G20 partner

Mr McAllister backs Dr Merkel’s line, that upcoming talks are not about “punishing” Britain but finding a “sensible solution” with a country that remains a neighbour and G7/G20 partner.

However, he warned that this should not be mistaken for an EU readiness to allow Britain market access without respecting EU fundamental freedoms and European Court of Justice rulings.

“The fundamental question Britain has to clear up is which is more important: full access to the single market or strong limits on movement of people,” he said.

“I would like if we can find as close a relationship as possible with the UK, with access to or membership of the single market, but only if the rules are accepted in full.”

As well as Brexit, Mr McAllister is a key figure in the looming European Parliament row over the refusal of president Martin Schulz, from the Socialist grouping, to hand over as agreed midway through the five-year term to a candidate from the EPP.

“We insist on agreements being honoured,” he said.

How would he rate the chances of Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness if she joined the race?

“At the moment it is too early to say,” he said, “but, in general and independent of this process, Mairead has, as a parliament vice-president, been valued colleague who enjoys widespread respect”.

What of another looming political position: whether Dr Merkel will put herself forward for a fourth term at next month’s CDU party conference?

Mr McAllister has heard nothing concrete yet – no one has – but says she would have widespread support if she did given the growing economy and record low jobless rate.

“The CDU stands for continuity, something Germans like, particularly in a world that’s becoming increasingly uncertain,” he said. “To swap out the political leader now would be absurd.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin