Eurbarometer poll: building on the positive

Results should empower the Government to take an active approch to the need to revitalise the European project

 

The finding in the latest Eurobarometer poll that the Irish are more optimistic about the future of the EU than the people of any other member state shows just how different the public mood here is to that of our neighbours in the UK.

Irish people have been consistently among the most supportive of the European project and it appears that, far from undermining that support, Brexit has reinforced it. It is noteworthy that the financial bailout of 2010, and the stringent conditions attached to it, did no long-term damage to the standing of the EU in Irish eyes. However, that positive perspective is likely to be tested in the years ahead as the impact of Brexit kicks in.

Controls of some kind along the 499 kilometre land Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland appear inevitable unless there is a big change of heart by the British. How the Irish public will react to delays and red tape associated with customs and immigration controls will test our commitment to the EU.

Another and possibly bigger test will be how the Irish people respond to the development of closer co-operation across the EU on a range of issues including taxation and security. It will require open and honest political leadership to inform people at each stage as the EU develops. The failure to properly do so in the past led to the defeat of two important EU treaties here.

The poll showing such a strong Irish commitment to the EU should give the Government the confidence to be bold in its approach to building a stronger union. It should also empower it to respond imaginatively to the need to revitalise the European project.

It is also noteworthy that the poll shows increased optimism about the future of the EU across most other member states. Support for the Euro is at its highest level since 2004 and close to a majority of Europeans are confident about improvements in their own national economies.

It is a far cry from the pessimism that swept the EU during the financial crisis and doubts about the future prompted by the Brexit vote and the apparently unstoppable rise of populist forces.

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