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Snippet Contents:

It was with interest that I noted the remarks of President Donald Tusk following the most recent European Council. He wanted to emphasise the point that Brexit had in fact taken up very little time at the Council. On the one hand, I am delighted that elements such as the Paris Agreement and the horrendous migration humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean Sea route are getting the prominence among European leaders that they deserve, but I also feel strongly that Brexit is not something that can be allowed to develop in an out of control way as a footnote to these gatherings. I suspect that geography and the size of Ireland are part of the problem. It is not as if we can float ourselves off nearer to the Continent. There is a real issue in relation to our geography.
According to Mr. Tusk, there was a quick agreement which confirmed unity and a determination to reduce the uncertainty caused by Brexit. It is very important for us in Ireland to be vociferous in having our voice heard around the impact of Brexit on us and we must also look to our own readiness to deal with the fallout.
There are two perspectives on Brexit: the European one and ours. While it is all very well looking at it from the point of view of making sure the books balance, there are other concerns regarding our voice in Europe about which we must be conscious. For example, on the one hand, we are speaking about fiscal space, balancing the books and not having money for capital investment. On the other hand, we are missing our climate targets. We are going backwards and we are going to end up with significant fines from the European Union while the EU is constraining us from investing in public transport or retrofitting housing and buildings that would save energy. This is indicative of the problem we have and one that may well increase in the wake of Brexit unless we strongly take control of the situation and refuse to continue what has become a culture of kowtowing to the EU and being pacified with pats on the head.
Mr. Tusk’s remarks also referred to his belief that things have changed for the better in the European Union and that there is now renewed hope in the European project. What does that mean? What does this European project - this organisation we are all supposed to be partners in - mean when we carried the lion's share of the burden around the banking collapse? We got a commitment to retroactive recapitalisation but it did not mean anything. We need not just commitments but also to see the hard facts. What is going to be done to overcome some of the issues that will present really serious problems for Ireland if they are not addressed in advance of Brexit? By virtue of the straitjacket we are in, we do not have the ability to invest, especially with regard to investing in items where we could spend now and save later such as housing.
We have a difficult time ahead, more so than any other European country, when it comes to dealing with Brexit. Ireland must have a strong voice to navigate that uncharted course and be in agreement with Mr Tusk’s commitment to reduce the uncertainty caused by Brexit. The German car industry will be concerned about he fallout for it in terms of sales into Britain, but Ireland has a whole economy that is much more exposed. We need to have this understood and forensically dealt with. It must not be some sort of side note, footnote or quick agreement at the end of a meeting. For Ireland this has to be much more centre stage and much more about what the EU is going to do to make sure we can cope with the fallout and that it will not just be by virtue of our size. It must not be another case of "Whoops, we got that wrong", which is pretty much how the bank debt was dealt with.