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European Council: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 926 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy] On that point I will answer the Deputy's other question by describing the sense I have of the position taken by our colleagues in other member states regarding the unique position that we have in Ireland. There are many areas where we and other member states have significant areas of common concern. It goes to the point made by Deputy Eamon Ryan that it is vital to acknowledge Ireland will continue to be a strong and enthusiastic member of the European Union and we will be part of the 27 member state and the negotiations that will take place with the United Kingdom. Many countries share significant concerns that we already have around trade, a reduction in activity through the Single Market and the effects in other countries for their SME sectors, exporters, businesses, the jobs that are created and their people. It is true that Ireland will be more affected by that given the €1.2 billion worth of trade crossing the Irish Sea every year and the 400,000 jobs on either side of that trade.

While travelling recently in north-eastern Europe it struck me that the United Kingdom is the second biggest market for many other countries. We therefore have many areas where we can work with other countries. Spain for example, and its land border with Gibraltar, has similar issues to be addressed as Ireland has with the North, but not as complex as Ireland's. It is fair to say that Ireland has unique difficulties and while we will not be seeking to have a side deal, as was asked, within the deal that the European Union has with the United Kingdom, there will have to be a specific part of that process that deals with this island's unique circumstances. These unique circumstances are the common travel area that has existed for so long now, the deep and significant progress made in the peace process, the legally binding international agreements that exist, through the Good Friday Agreement, between the United Kingdom, Ireland and the parties of Northern Ireland around governance, and the substantial support of the EU’s PEACE and INTERREG programmes and other financial supports that have come to Northern Ireland and the Border areas. There is a strong acceptance about these aspects.

The Taoiseach has met with Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, President Tusk and Michel Barnier, who will be negotiating on behalf of the Commission. Our concerns are being expressed but the reason for the very brief intervention by Prime Minister Theresa May at the Council meeting last week was because, unfortunately, until the British come forward with their proposals there cannot be a reaction from the European Council or EU leaders as we do not know what the UK's ask will be. Earlier in this discussion today reference was made to a scenario where the UK gets what it wants and Ireland's needs will come afterwards. That is not the case. The United Kingdom will present its suggestion after it triggers Article 50. Ireland has no advance knowledge as to what that might be. At that point, negotiations can commence properly and the Opposition will have a very important role, not least through the influence of its own party political groups. I know, as Chairman of the European affairs committee, that many Deputies are active members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, ALDE, which, along with our group, the Green group and the other groups, can make sure Ireland's voice is heard at the EU Parliament, not just by Ministers, but also by other key politicians in the EU political institutions.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe Perhaps the Minister of State could ask about a note I had asked of the Taoiseach on the migration crisis. I have asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade at various venues if he would come up with a note. I believe the Taoiseach was indicating that he might be able to supply the House with that.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy Sorry Deputy?

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe The migration crisis. The asylum process is clearly broken in Ireland and other European countries. There is a problem in Italy, for example, around the system there. There is a handful of people coming from Greece but there are clearly problems there. I, and other Members, meet people every day who are asking about what Ireland is doing with regard to the crisis. We would like to know of, and have some sort of sense of, the difficulties and problems there are, and how we propose to fix them. Other speakers today referenced the meeting we had about Calais and the fact that it is burning and the serious concerns we had about that. One of the questions was whether the Government would agree to relocate unaccompanied children from that site. Is the Minister of State in a position to address that issue or can he come back to us on it? There will be an all-party motion hopefully coming to the House and we can get some sort of an agreement on that.

I am concerned about the African and Asian states with which the EU is negotiating new bilateral agreements on migration. With which countries are these agreements being discussed? Are some of these areas war zones - it was suggested that Sudan was one of the areas - or are they countries with disgraceful human rights records where minorities and those who are gay or lesbian face discrimination? Are they countries from where many people are fleeing religious persecution? Could the Minister of State outline which countries these bilateral agreements are with? Reference was made to Afghanistan and the 80,000 Afghani nationals being sent back there. Can the Minister of State confirm if Afghanistan is one of the countries being looked at?

The European Commission has launched proposals for a common corporate tax base and a common consolidated corporate tax base. The context is the renewed push across Europe by people who are concerned about tax avoidance. I believe there are genuine, well-founded concerns around that. Many of us have serious concerns about the impact of the proposal on Ireland's right to set its own tax rate. While the ability to set our own tax rate will not be affected by this proposal the rules of calculation, deductions and exemptions will infringe on the rights of EU member states to set policies. What are the Government's views on these recent proposals?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Time Deputy.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe Reference is also made to the fact that migration has dropped off but will the Minister of State confirm that the October death toll had reached the same as the death toll from October last year? We are now approaching November and we still have December coming up. With people taking much more dangerous routes to get into Europe, unfortunately more and more people are dying.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I invite the Minister of State to respond but I remind him that I want to give an opportunity also to Deputy Ryan.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy I will be as brief as I can. The LE Samuel Beckett has rescued today 122 people in the Mediterranean Sea. I know people have been very complimentary about the work of our Naval Service in the Mediterranean Sea and this brings the number rescued up to 14,555.

  Some of the figures we got earlier on migration were not correct as some of the Deputies have slightly inaccurate figures. With regard to the numbers of people who have come to Ireland through resettlement and relocation, the Government has committed to 4,000 people. It is fair to say that the numbers coming over have been lower than we would like. There is a desire in Ireland that we welcome people who are in very difficult situations and that the compassion of the Irish people would be shown through these commitments. We have committed, through resettlement, to take 780 people before the end of 2017 - to date, 520 in 2016 and an expected 260 in 2017.

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