Flanagan dismisses Irexit suggestion as 'fanciful'
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has dismissed as “fanciful thinking” claims by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage that Ireland may need to consider leaving the European Union.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke this afternoon, Mr Farage said he believes public opinion in Ireland will move towards an ‘Irexit’ if the UK secures a good deal in negotiations with the European Union.
However, Mr Flanagan told RTÉ News: “Ireland is firmly on Team EU in the context of these [Brexit] negotiations.”
Asked about Ireland’s ambitions in the negotiations, the minister said: “Ireland would obviously wish, post Brexit, that the relationship between the UK and the EU would be close. Our preference obviously is what has been described as a ‘soft Brexit’.”
Mr Flanagan said that the British government needs to clarify its plans for Brexit “at the earliest possible opportunity”.
He added: “I think it’s important that the British government develop something of a plan. I believe it’s important now, over six months since the referendum, we know what type of relationship that they wish to have with the European Union. It’s not clear, to date, what that plan might be.”
Asked if he expected further insight by the time British Prime Minister Theresa May travels to Ireland at the end of the month for Brexit talks, Mr Flanagan said: “I believe that it’s important now that we move towards a position of clarity. This is the most important and urgent economic challenge of our time.”
The minister maintained that Irish concerns over Brexit were being well-received by other EU member states: “I am encouraged by the discussions I have had with each and every one of my EU colleagues at foreign affairs level.”
He added that Brexit and ‘the non-return to a hard border’ were issues of “great importance and urgency”.
On the resignation of the British ambassador to the EU, Mr Flanagan said: “We, in Ireland, have always enjoyed a very positive and constructive relationship with Sir Ivan Rogers. It’s important that we work well with everybody.”
Mr Farage earlier welcomed the resignation of Mr Rogers, and said that he should have resigned the same day that former prime minister David Cameron did.
Mr Farage said Mr Rogers was the senior negotiator who had gotten the UK a “paltry, rotten deal” as part of its re-negotiation with the EU.
He added that Mr Rogers was the wrong person to lead Brexit talks because he was so pessimistic about it and someone with a positive mentality should be heading the team of negotiators.
He said he believed this resignation was the first sign of Ms May getting tough with those who disagreed with Brexit. Mr Farage said he feared if the Brexit process did not get under way quickly, and if Brexit does not really mean Brexit and a watered down deal was reached, then the next general election should provide a bigger shock than the referendum result.
He said in an ideal world the EU states would be grown up and recognise the importance of the UK market and sign a trade deal, similar to the one reached with Canada.
Mr Farage said Europe was an important market place, but it was not the whole world and the UK needed to think globally, adding it was clear that US President-elect Donald Trump wants to have a relationship with the UK.
He said that no deal with the EU, and the UK trading on World Trade Organisation rules, would still be better than the deal it currently has.
Mr Rogers, who stepped down from his position yesterday, has told his colleagues ministers needed to hear “unvarnished” and “uncomfortable” views from Europe.
In his resignation note, which was obtained by the BBC, Ivan Rogers urged his staff to support each other when they “have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them”.
Mr Rogers said he hoped his colleagues would never be afraid “to speak the truth to those in power” and that they would challenge what he called ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking.
His comments will only further fuel speculation that he stood down because his advice had not been well received by the British government.
It emerged last year that he had advised Ms May that a UK-EU trade deal could take up to ten years to negotiate.
His note to his staff also said that “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall”, and he added that is not the case in the European Commission or in the Council.
He said that the UK government needed to harness the best experience possible in order to secure the best deal in Brexit negotiations.
Remain supporters have called Mr Rogers’ resignation a “body blow” for Brexit, while Leave campaigners have welcomed it.
Meanwhile the European Commission has said it regretted Mr Rogers’ resignation.
“We regret the loss of a very professional, very knowledgeable while not always easy interlocutor and diplomat, who always loyally defended the interests of his government,” Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the commission, said.