Published: Tue, 19 March 2019
Seán Kelly MEP and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, will today (Tuesday) host a gathering of Irish business representatives and high-level EU decision makers at his annual St Patrick’s Day reception at the European Parliament in Brussels.
The event, hosted in collaboration with Irish business representative group, Ibec, will include keynote speeches from MEP Kelly, Commissioner Phil Hogan, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
Speaking ahead of today’s event, which takes place as EU leaders prepare to travel to Brussels later this week to discuss the latest developments on Brexit, Mr. Kelly made the following comments:
“I look forward to hosting this event every year not just because it marks our national holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, but also because it celebrates the hard work of Irish people who contribute to our significant influence at EU level and who help to ensure that we continue to punch above our weight, in line with our reputation here in Brussels.
“Brexit, and the impact it is already having on Irish businesses in terms of uncertainty and a weakening pound will of course be the main theme of conversation this evening.
“With only ten days left to avoid a crash-out Brexit, and still a significant amount of uncertainty about the outcome, today’s event is a welcome opportunity to hear from Mr. Barnier and get his perspective on what is likely to happen this week. It is amazing that we have reached this point without a deal, and there is great frustration on the EU side, but hopefully a hard exit will be avoided this week one way or another.
“I am very grateful to Michel Barnier and his team for the unwavering solidarity shown to Ireland over the last two years of negotiations, and it is a privilege to have him with us this evening so that we can reiterate this message on the week of our national holiday.
“With all that said, it is with great sadness that we will soon see the departure of our UK colleagues here in the European Parliament, assuming we don’t have a major change of direction over the next two weeks. The vast majority of UK MEPs have been great to work with and have made important parliamentary contributions over the years. Their absence will certainly be felt in our discussions and debates here in the coming years.
“Now is not the time for straining relations between UK and Ireland, as some public representatives saw fit to do over the weekend by being pictured with provocative banners. Irish and UK good relations must continue to be preserved in to the future regardless of what comes of Brexit,” he added.