24 May 2017
Working to oppose Brexit where it counts – in the EU
We have put forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for the North to achieve ‘Designated Special Status Within the EU’ and it has already received significant support in Europe
THE PARTIES at Westminster have failed to protect the interests of our people, our economy and public services. They have failed to ensure the votes of the people of the North to remain is respected.
The issue has moved beyond Westminster and on to the negotiations between the British Government and the other 27 EU member states.
That is why I travelled to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to engage directly with EU leaders on the impact of the Tory Brexit agenda to drag the North out of the EU.
Last June, the majority of people in the North voted to remain in the EU and, since then, Sinn Féin has been working with political leaders in the European Parliament to make sure that vote is respected.
We have the largest team of MEPs from Ireland in the European Parliament – a team that works in the interests of all of Ireland and a team that is working to change the EU.
● Sinn Féin MEPs Matt Carthy, Martina Anderson, Liadh Ní Riada and Lynn Boylan
We have put forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for the North to achieve ‘Designated Special Status Within the EU’ and it has already received significant support in Europe.
During my visit to Strasbourg, I – along with Mary Lou McDonald and Martina Anderson – met with the key players in the upcoming Brexit negotiations to reiterate the need for the Good Friday Agreement to be protected.
In Strasbourg, we met with the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, to update him on our case for designated special status for the North within the EU.
This was the latest in a series of direct engagements with Guy Verhofstadt on this issue. Martin McGuinness met with the senior MEP in October to discuss Brexit, and Martina Anderson and the Sinn Féin MEPs team regularly engage with him and other MEPs on Brexit.
● Martin McGuinness met EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Guy Verhofstadt
We also met with MEPs from the leaders of some of the main political groupings in the European Parliament, including Gianni Pitella from the Progressive Union of Socialists and Democrats and Gabi Zimmer from GUE/NGL, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left.
As the Irish Government will have a significant role to play in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, we also met with Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly to press on him the need for the Irish Government to act in the best interests of all Irish citizens, including those in the North, in those negotiations.
We also reminded him of the Irish Government’s responsibility as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement – an internationally-binding agreement lodged at the United Nations – to ensure that the Tory Brexit agenda is not allowed to unpick and undermine that agreement.
In our meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan we made it clear that Brexit would have a devastating impact on the agricultural industry across Ireland and the need to secure ‘Designated Special Status Within the EU’ to protect the livelihoods of farmers as well as the international reputation for excellence our agri-food industry enjoys throughout Europe.
The EU has long been a strong supporter of the Peace Process in Ireland and there is a genuine concern among MEPs from all political backgrounds from across Europe that Brexit could undermine the progress made over the last two decades.
We updated MEPs from all over Europe on the Peace Process and the threat of Brexit and it was clear there is widespread support for our case for ‘Designated Special Status For The North Within the EU’.
Through Sinn Féin’s direct engagement with the key players in the EU, we have been able to exert significant influence over the EU and European Parliament approach to Brexit and Ireland.
Our MEPs worked hard to ensure the Joint Resolution on Brexit passed by the European Parliament called for no hardening of the Border, recognised the unique circumstances of the North, and called for the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.
Our national leadership has been engaging directly with EU leaders in Europe, Strasbourg and in Dublin to have genuine and direct input into the negotiations in order to bring our opposition to Brexit and our credible alternative to the heart of Europe.
We will continue to oppose Brexit and work to secure the position of North to remain within a changed EU.
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An initiative for dialogue
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures