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Snippet Contents:

It is interesting in some ways that the European Union is constantly, correctly in my mind, telling the United Kingdom that in any negotiation on Brexit the movement of goods and people cannot be separated. This issue is connected to trade because the fear is that the European Union has been excessively concerned with protecting the interests of those who trade goods as opposed to social and environmental considerations. It is a world in which capital can move remarkably fast and international corporations often have power that exceeds that of countries because of their ability to trade and access finance across borders. It is the indisputable power of capital and its speed of movement that give it an unfair negotiating position in comparison to labour and natural capital which is less mobile. It is the underlying concern that in its broad approach the European Union has had undue regard to the interests of capital compared to labour. That is behind the fundamental concern of the Green Party throughout Europe about the nature of the trade agreements that have been signed. For all the reassurance provided in the Council conclusions that trade arrangements will try to maintain the capability of national governments to regulate, in the agreements we have seen it is evident that there is a continuation of the policy of giving excessive power to capital as compared to labour and natural capital.
The Minister-President of Wallonia, Mr. Paul Magnette, has taken a very prominent and, to my mind, the correct position in standing up for his region by saying he does not agree with the proposals made. Despite extensive pressure exerted on him and his parliament, as I articulated in my speech prior to the European Council meeting, he helped to stop the CETA process. It is better for us to recognise this at this stage and look to renegotiate the agreement. It is not that we are opposed to trade, but we need to be able to move capital. It has to be balanced. The existing trade agreements, the CETA and the TTIP, are not properly balanced and we should use the opportunity to restore faith in the European Union and the balance between capital, labour and natural capital. This should be done through a variation, such as that for which the Wallonian Parliament and my colleagues in the Green Party in the European Parliament have called.
What the Taoiseach has said is true. This one of the most open trading economies in the world. We, therefore, have to get the balance of trade right. We are dependent on free trade and will be most successful when we stand up for fair as well as free trade, but I did not read anything about this in the Taoiseach's speech or the analysis produced by the Government. That needs to change.
Reference is made in a Sherlock Holmes book to a dog or a hound that did not bark. There was a lack of attention to Brexit within the European Council. That was probably correct because it behoves the UK Government to present what it wants to do before the Council starts to develop its approach. I reiterate the approach we should take which I mentioned to the Taoiseach yesterday during questions on Brexit. We need to stand in solidarity with the other 26 member states. We need to stand up for the connection with the movement of goods and people. We should not look for a side deal, reflecting Ireland's peripherality or particular circumstances on the Border. We have to manage that issue, but it should be as part of an overall co-ordinated European Union approach, not an approach whereby we try to side with the United Kingdom in a side deal which we bring to our European colleagues to be ratified as part of whatever arrangement is put in place.
I very much appreciate the chance to reflect on the European Council's conclusions. The upcoming Council will be critical, particularly in dealing with the Brexit issue. I look forward to receiving as much information as possible in briefings from the Government, as the Taoiseach promised, in order that we can make a contribution to the overall policy approach to be adopted.