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As Belfast debates Brexit, Charlie Flanagan reiterates Dublin opposition

Brexit campaigners Owen Paterson and Kate Hoey in Belfast city centre with DUP representatives Ian Paisley and Nelson McCausland. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE Republic's minister for foreign affairs has reiterated Dublin's belief that Britain should remain a member of a reformed European Union.

Charlie Flanagan was speaking ahead of travelling to London on Tuesday for a series of engagements, including a meeting with his British counterpart, foreign secretary Philip Hammond.

Mr Flanagan said he fully respected that the question of the UK’s EU membership was one for its electorate to decide.

However, he said he would be offering Ireland’s unique perspective as a "neighbour, as a fellow EU member state, as a €62 billion-a-year trading partner, as a partner in transforming British-Irish relations and as a facilitator of successive agreements aimed at securing peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland".

"Ireland’s experience with referendums, EU-focused and otherwise, is that voters need and deserve to be informed and involved in the debate, with both the pros and cons of the issue presented to them in a fair and factual matter," the minister said.

"Irish citizens resident in the UK are eligible to vote in this referendum and I would encourage Irish groups in the UK to help with efforts to promote debate and participation in this most important decision."

Meanwhile, key figures from both the pro and anti-EU camps appeared in Belfast on Monday night to debate the merits of breaking links with Brussels.

Speaking in favour of Brexit were former Secretary of State Owen Patterson and Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Kate Hoey.

Advocating continued EU membership were shadow secretary of state Vernon Coaker and the former Tory MEP John Stevens.

Speaking after meeting trawler owner representatives in Kilkeel, Co Down yesterday, Mr Paterson said: "A vote to remain will be a vote for more of the same.

"A vote to leave, to take control back into our hands, offers a fresh opportunity for better."

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