More than 400 people from the Midlands flocked to the Mullingar Park Hotel last Thursday night (January 19 ) to a public meeting on Brexit, hosted by Fine Gael Deputy, Peter Burke, and his party colleague and Senator, Gabrielle McFadden.
Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, president of the Irish Farmers Association, Joe Healy, and senior figures from the SFA, IBEC, and Chartered Accountants Ireland spoke on the night regarding the possible impacts of Brexit.
Questions on the night related to a large variety of subjects such as trade, livestock breeding, tourism, foreign languages, education, job creation, resources, and bureaucracy. A number of people wanted to know to what extent Ireland can expect special treatment in Brexit negotiations due to its close ties with the UK.
Minister Varadkar was at odds to point out that while we must negotiate as part of the 27 States of the EU, strong ties with the United Kingdom will continue after Brexit.
“Brexit poses challenges for Ireland and from what we have heard here tonight, there can be no doubt that business dealings with our nearest neighbours will have to be protected and maintained so that we don’t lose our biggest and most important trade partner,” he said. “I have taken on board the concerns raised tonight, along with the priorities people have highlighted, and I will be communicating this at Cabinet level. I understand that Deputy Burke and his staff will be compiling a formal report on proceedings and submitting this to the Fine Gael Working Group on Brexit and the Department of the Taoiseach.”
Senator Gabrielle McFadden said those representing Ireland in negotiations needed to “be brave” in their dealings with Europe: “Nations do not have allies or enemies, they only have interests,” she said. “We need to identify those nations with similar interests to our own, to build an alliance and to do everything we can to ensure that the UK gets the best possible deal for one simple reason - it is in our best interest.
“I do not believe that we should leave the Union, or even threaten to, but we must not be afraid to ruffle feathers,” she said. “When a relationship breaks down it can end in an amicable arrangement or a messy divorce. I believe that during the negotiations we must do all that we can to argue for the former, even if that is not popular with some of the other players in Europe. We have an opportunity to shape the future of this relationship and we must grab it with both hands.”