Updated: 28/11/16 : 18:25:00
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Harkin supports Taoiseach on North unity call

A proposal that Northern Ireland could remain in the European Union despite Brexit has been raised by Sligo based Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

Speaking at a conference of the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland in Portlaoise she referred to the recent statement of An Taoiseach that the North should not have to wait 20 years to access the EU.

“There is a need to be innovative in the negotiations on the exit of the UK from the EU and I, like the Taoiseach, would like to see a reunification test at an earlier date”, she said.  The Independent MEP said that radical and innovative thinking was needed in the interests of both the Republic and Northern Ireland. “Why, for instance, could we not propose a development along the same lines as that put forward in the context of the 1914 Home Rule bill where Northern counties were encouraged to accept Home Rule but given an opportunity to withdraw after six years should they deem that an independent 32 county government was not working to their advantage.

Northern Ireland had voted to remain in the EU, she said, and its citizens should be given an opportunity to remain for doing so, with an opportunity to return to the UK after a decade and with clearly defined conditions, the Independent MEP said.

Resurgence of Nationalism

Referring to the broader context of why the people of the UK voted to leave the EU Marian Harkin said that there were both national and international reasons for the result.  Brexit had occurred in the context of a resurgence of nationalism across Europe, she said, and this had been fuelled by a combination of neo-liberal and austerity policies.  Proposed trade deals were promoted without due regard to the fact that there would be losers as well as winners.

“Globalisation can be good by providing unlimited choice, access to information and travel but this is  offset by the negative dimensions of outsourcing of jobs and large scale redundancies”, she said.  At EU level there was a sense of nobody in charge at the top and this provided a catalyst for the rise of nationalist positions in many EU countries, Marian Harkin maintained.

“The rise of seeming uncontrolled immigration at a time of economic decline has created increased community tensions across the EU”, she said.   This needed to be addressed and there was also a need to rebalance economic and social policy in the EU, the Independent MEP said.

A hard Brexit would be catastrophic for Ireland while the impact on the UK would be even worse, she warned.  “I am hopeful that out of the white heat of negotiation will emerge interim arrangements to soften the outcome of Brexit and allow all parties involved to emerge with the minimum of damage caused”, Independent MEP Marian Harkin concluded.