- Former Taoiseach and EU Ambassador to the US interviewed by former MEP Gay Mitchell on variety of European issues to mark upcoming 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
- Need for more office space in Dublin, the current housing shortage and lack of International Schools identified as barriers to availing of post-Brexit opportunities
- Brexit is the result of forgotten lessons from the past and Britain turning its back on Europe is very risky ‘from the point of view of their own security’
The IDA and Enterprise Ireland will be critical to the success of Ireland converting any opportunities presented by Brexit, according to John Bruton, former Taoiseach and EU Ambassador to the US. He made his comments in a podcast interview with Gay Mitchell, the former MEP, TD and Minister for European Affairs, about the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the implications of Brexit on Ireland and Europe.
The wide ranging interview also discussed:
- The history of democracy in Europe
- The impact of The Treaty of Rome on Europe
- That the EU must impose penalties if standards are not respected and upheld by member countries
- How Irish citizens have lost sight of their local community and are now more focused on self-interest
The interview is the first in a new podcast series called ‘Gay Mitchell Meets….’ in which Gay Mitchell, now European Political and Public Affairs Adviser with Unique Media, interviews prominent people in public life.
Speaking about Brexit, John Bruton said: “The truth is, as far as Brexit is concerned, we must prepare for the worst but make sure we make the best of any opportunity that comes. That includes attracting financial services here. It also includes upping our game diplomatically in Europe. We have a very good diplomatic service but it’s relatively small and we need the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to be even more active in continental Europe and in promoting Irish interests to ensure that in any arrangements that are made, that Ireland’s interests are looked after. The centre of gravity of Europe, as a result of Britain leaving, will move eastwards and we’re on the western edge and we just have to run that bit faster to keep up.”
Mr. Bruton also outlined the significant opportunities that Brexit poses for Ireland: “One of them is, of course, to attract more of the financial services activity that is currently in London into Ireland and I think Ireland will be attractive. It has been attractive for Barclays Bank, for example, because we are an English speaking country, operating a common law legal system which they are familiar with. We will be within the European Union, whereas Britain will be out of it. Our Government will have a say in EU councils and decisions being made about financial standards, whereas the UK will not. So aspects of banks are going to want to locate more of their activity in Ireland and that’s going to create more employment opportunities.”
However, Mr. Bruton identified some barriers that Ireland needs to address in order to avail of post Brexit opportunities, including the need for more office space in Dublin, the current housing shortage and how Ireland needs to upgrade its educational vision with the introduction of more International Schools.
Speaking about how Britain handled the Brexit campaign, he says Brexit was a result of forgotten lessons from the past and he is disappointed that politicians in Britain didn’t do more to remind the British people of their countries deep vested interest in the peace, order and democratic Governance of Europe.
“People in the United Kingdom should remember that they went to war in 1914 to defend the neutrality of Belgium and now they want to introduce rules to prevent Belgians coming to live and work in England. In 1939, entirely on their own except for the French and without the United States at their back, they went to war to protect the independence and territory integrity of Poland. And now, they are finding it unacceptable that, as part of building a structure of peace in Europe, Poles could come to work freely in Britain.”
“It seems to me that they have lost a sense of history. They’ve lost a sense of the European mission that Britain has fulfilled, not just in the 20th century but previously going back to the 18th and 19th century. Britain has always been involved in Europe and now they want to turn their back on it and I think that’s something that’s very risky from the point of view of their own security.”
While Mr. Bruton doubts there will be a second referendum on Brexit, he believes it is in the best interest of the British public. A second referendum, he says, would allow Britons to make a better educated decision, devoid of inaccurate information.
“The current British government is saying that the referendum means that they must leave the customs union. That was not part of what was put to the people. They are saying that they must not join the European economic area if they leave the European Union. That was not one of the questions put to the people either. But the current government is interpreting what the people decided in ways that are far beyond what actually the people were asked to decide. or what was explained to them before the referendum and I think the merit in having a second referendum would be that, on the second occasion, people might repeat the same decision, but they would at least know fully what they were doing and they wouldn’t be relying on sort of half-truths or some outright lies that were told to them before the 23rd of June.”
“I think, unfortunately, this is part of the cycle of human error that we forget the lessons of the past. It takes maybe a generation and a half, or two generations, to forget these lessons completely. I think when it comes to booms and busts and the economy or big mistakes in politics, like the extreme nationalism that were seeing now, that wouldn’t of happened twenty years ago because too many people twenty years ago would have remembered that nationalism, in its extreme form, led to war.”
“But now a lot of those people who remember that are no longer with us and the rest of us have probably lived relatively peaceful lives and have seen wars as something on television that takes place on the other side of the world and are not something that could ever happen here. But of course they could happen here if we were to be foolish enough to set up structures of antagonism instead of the structures of peace that the European Union is.”
The ‘Gay Mitchell Meets….’ podcast is produced by Unique Media and is the first in a series of interviews between Gay Mitchell and prominent people in public life
The podcast is available in full at: https://soundcloud.com/user-236504970/gay-mitchell-meets-episode-1-john-bruton
Unique Media is a full service media consultancy firm which provides Public Relations, Public Affairs, Issues Management, Media Training, Presentation Training, Advertising, Creative, Production and Broadcast Consultancy services all under the one roof. The public affairs division focuses on advising local and international companies, public bodies, associations, NGO’s and representative organisations on how the institutions of the EU work, what the EU might look like after Brexit and, in particular, offers bespoke guidance on how to prepare for a post-Brexit EU.
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