Republic of Ireland news

European Parliament president: EU ‘will not leave Ireland's side' on Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomes President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, to Government Buildings in Dublin, during her two-day visit to the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)
Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola has told the Irish parliament that the EU “will not leave your side” on Brexit issues.

She said the European Union “has not wavered in its solidarity with Ireland” and said the EU can learn from how Ireland continues to deal with the challenges of Brexit.

She said that Brexit was “something that the European Union regrets but respects as a democratic choice of a majority of the British people”.

Addressing Ireland's upper and lower houses, Ms Metsola listed what she said were the shared common values between the EU and Ireland, including brokering peace and securing the Northern Ireland protocol.

“The European Union is not some faraway entity deciding for you, it is you. Ireland is you,” she told TDs and senators.

“When 10 people lost their lives in Creeslough, we cried with you. When journalists like Veronica Guerin are killed for speaking out, we share your outrage and your determination for justice.

“When Ireland faced uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, your position was our position. We went through all of that together and we will stay together.

“The story of Ireland is one of beating the odds, of struggle, sacrifice, defiance, and emerging stronger – lessons that Europe will need … to face the year ahead. Because make no mistake, we are living in times of polycrises.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded to say that EU membership had “amplified” Ireland's voice in the world, and that funding for local communities and access to the single market had transformed the country.

“(You only need to look at) the consequences of Brexit and the effects on its young people to be reminded how complicated life would be for our citizens and our businesses if it were not for the four freedoms of the European single market.”

The Maltese MEP is on a two-day visit to Dublin to mark 50 years of Ireland's membership of the European Union.

Irish MEPS and Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill were present in the chamber for Ms Metsola's address.

The visit comes amid reports of a possible deal between the EU and UK over the contentious protocol arrangement, which sets out post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland.

Businesses have been reporting some problems with how the protocol is operating. As a result, the DUP has boycotted the powersharing institutions until they are resolved or the rules are removed entirely.

A deal on customs data sharing struck in recent weeks has hinted at a possible breakthrough between the two sides, as efforts intensify to restore Stormont ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April.

Earlier, Ms Metsola was greeted by Mr Varadkar as she arrived at Government Buildings. She is also due to meet Irish president Michael D Higgins as part of her visit.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is leading a programme of events this year to mark when Ireland joined the EU's precursor in 1973.

In December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas in Dublin to mark Ireland's 50 years in the EU.

Republic of Ireland news