Published: Mon, 07 November 2022
Seán Kelly MEP and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament has urged the British Government to restore its international standing by restoring its relations with the EU for more strategic and positive cooperation into the future. The Ireland South MEP made the call during a series of meetings between MEPs and MPs in London under the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, of which Mr Kelly is First Vice-Chair.
The Assembly was established as a post-Brexit as a forum for MEPs and UK parliamentarians to debate the latest developments in EU-UK relations and is of particular importance now, according to MEP Kelly:
“The UK is no longer part of the EU but they are a close and important ally. There are many vital areas on which we can and should increase our cooperation for mutual benefit – such as security and defence. Brexit, in my view, was an own-goal and we are starting to really see its negative impact, which is more like a slow puncture for the economy as opposed to the car crash that some commentators predicted. However, the UK should avoid causing even more damage to its international standing and long-term strategic interests by failing to maintain constructive relations with the EU on key areas.
“With renewed leadership, perhaps now the UK government has an opportunity to rebuild its global reputation by abandoning plans for unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and thus breaking international law and its own deal with the EU for example, and instead ramping up diplomatic efforts to find solutions.”
The Ireland South MEP also repeated his call for the UK to step back from passing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would contravene international law: “There is an impression in the UK that the EU, and Ireland in particular, have not been vocal in our opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill recently. It would be a mistake to misconstrue this, we remain strongly against the Bill, but due to the internal political turmoil in the UK we want to give space for discussions on joint solutions. The reality is that if the NIP Bill is passed, the EU will have no choice but to respond accordingly. This is not what anyone wants.”
After calls from Kelly and many MEPs, EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly will now hear testimony from devolved legislatures within the UK. However, although there is representation from Scottish Parliament and Senedd in Wales, there is no speaker listed from the Northern Ireland Assembly: “It is a lost opportunity that Northern Ireland is not properly represented on the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly again. The people of Northern Ireland are the most affected by the Protocol, yet, where is their political representation?”
On Monday, 7 November – Tuesday, 8 November, participants will meet with the European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on the state of play of EU-UK relations. An exchange of views with Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is also scheduled, as is a meeting with Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, European Commission on energy cooperation.
MEPs and MPs are also set to discuss the rights and challenges related to touring artists; how to improve EU-UK cooperation on defence and security, with particular reference to cyber defence and data exchange; and ensuring citizens’ rights are upheld.