Brexit: Micheal Martin says deal ‘in best interest’ of everyone
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Micheal Martin made his remarks during a speech at an event marking the 30th Anniversary of the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin entitled Ireland in a Changing European Union. And the Fianna Fail leader – who replaced Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar as the country’s leader just under a year ago – stressed the need for a “rebuild a constructive and sustainable relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom”, while emphasising the result of the 2016 referendum continued to reverberate across the continent.
In a clear swipe at Brexiteers, Mr Martin said: “The referendum, together with the decades of anti-EU rhetoric which preceded it and the drawn-out negotiations which followed, caused damage which cannot be undone.
“As I have said many times before, Brexit is a major step-backwards and there is no upside to it.
“However, it is now a reality and we must do whatever we can to limit the scale of its negative impact.”
The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK signed in December, taken together with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, represented the ”best possible outcome in the circumstances”, Mr Martin claimed.
He added: “There is no useful purpose served in keeping the debate about Brexit going.
“If we want what is best for us all then we need to retire this dispute and focus on the full and effective implementation of what has been agreed.
“We need good faith and cooperation – and we need to understand that the first reflex when there is a problem should be to seek engagement not to promote a dispute.”
However, he warned: “It should, however, be acknowledged that this relationship can never be the same as the relationship between EU Member States, however hard we work on making it the best it can be.”
Referring to two former leaders of the UK and Ireland respectively, Mr Martin said: “Tomorrow you will hear from both Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair – in a reminder of just how much can be achieved by the Dublin and London governments when they work together closely.
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“What they achieved together for our countries was and remains historic – and that was a partnership which they insisted was reflected in every part of their governments.
“I particularly remember how it was agreed that disputes, of which there were many, were to be dealt with in a spirit of open discussion and good faith.”
In a tacit acknowledgement of Ireland’s isolation on the edge of Europe in the wake of Britain’s departure, Mr Martin said Ireland had lost important partner within the bloc with whom it had collaborated on numerous issues.
He said: “The need for Ireland to build alliances with Member States across the EU has never been more evident.
“We have strengthened across the Union in order to broaden and deepen our contacts with partners.
“This includes a new approach to engaging with countries of different sizes and with different priorities.”
Mr Martin warned: “The last decade and a half has been turbulent for the Europe Union.
“The Great Recession exposed weaknesses in its structure and rising forces of destructive nationalism have confronted it.
“The question for us is will we play our role in helping the Union to regain its confidence and to show a new energy?”
He added: “Our guiding principle must be a simple one: A successful Ireland needs a successful European Union.
“And the truth is that events of recent years have shown that we cannot take this success for granted.”
His comments came after Mr Martin met Boris Johnson in the UK on Friday where the two leaders discussed the problems of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.
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