A member of the Fine Gael party, Deirdre Clune was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1997 general election. At the 2014 European Parliament election, Clune was elected to represent the South constituency in Europe
With the upcoming Brexit Referendum promising to cause a stir in Europe, we thought it would be great to get an Irish MEP’s opinion on the matter and see what all the fuss is about.
Could you summarize three key implications of a British withdrawal from the EU?
The Single Market - if Britain leaves the EU, it also leaves the European Single Market. Studies have shown that EU membership increases trade between member states when measured against other trade agreements. A paper produced by the Treasury shows that trade in goods increased by 71% and by 16% in services between the member states compared with just a free trade area. This is because even though there are lower tariffs or none at all, less harmonized relationships produce other difficulties. A similar analysis by the OECD saw trade in goods increase by 60% against trade within WTO rules.
Services- The service sector accounts for about 80% of the UK’s economy. Were Britain to leave the EU, it is likely that some sort of trade deal would be signed in the coming years. Yet most existing trade deals exclude services, and agreements that do include them also require free movement of people and common regulations. For example, Switzerland has a bilateral trade agreement with the EU - but for this, they must contribute to the EU budget and accept the free movement of people, with no involvement in the EU decision-making process.
Schengen - whilst Britain and Ireland opted out of Schengen, we can still show a passport at a Schengen border and then travel freely within this area. British citizens will lose this right if they exit the EU.
Is there a fear that this could destabilize the EU or lead to further fracture?
Yes, there is a fear of fracturing if Britain chooses to withdraw on June 23rd, with talk of other countries having similar referendums. There is no historical precedent for an exit of this sort; whilst Greenland left the European Economic Community in 1985, this was a completely different Europe and isn’t comparable. Brexit will be completely unchartered waters.
As an Irish MEP what is your personal view on it?
I personally would like to see Britain remain a member of the European Union, however if they do choose to leave, I believe we will maintain our closeness due to our historical links and ties.
From a democratic point of view, is it good to see referendums like this from time to time?
Of course, referendums are exactly what democracy is all about. Political systems exist to give people political representation to shape the paths they wish their countries to take.
The Brexit Referendum will take place on the 23rd of June