The former head of Europe’s biggest bank and a former Tory trade minister has said he is “ashamed” of how the UK has treated Ireland on Brexit negotiations.
Stephen Green, who was the chief executive of HSBC Bank and former minister of state for trade and investment in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, was the first guest speaker at the Autumn Lecture series of Limerick Civic Trust.
The event at St Mary’s Cathedral, which included the Irish Examiner as a sponsor, heard Mr Green speak about the European identity and the future of the EU.
Mr Green was responding during a question and answer session moderated by Financial Times journalist Quentin Peel after his lecture when he said Ireland’s treatment by the UK in relation to Brexit had been “shameful”.
When asked if the fear of a federal European system in the future was the reason for the Brexit vote, Mr Green, a former Anglican priest, said: “I have to say yes, in part at least. There were all sorts of cross currents in that referendum campaign. I confess to being a passionate and unrepentant Remainer, I think the country made a mistake.
“We are now in a position where we have to make the best of that, not only for ourselves. I’m perfectly conscious of the impact it is having on the Republic.
“One of the shameful things about the referendum is how little attention was paid to actually anything outside of Britain itself, and as usual Ireland counted as a sort of afterthought in British debate. I’m ashamed of that but I’m afraid it is true.”
Mr Green said there were “plenty of lies and plenty of exaggerations” in the Yes campaign, stoking nationalist fears that led to a “tragic” result. “If Britain is to chart its course as global Britain, open to the wider world, the trading nation that stands for free trade and open markets, then we have to be more open about our past than we have been,” he said.
He was the first of six guest speakers running every Thursday night until October 19. Next week, chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council shaykh Umar Al-Qadri will speak on immigration and integration with moderator John O’Brennan.
Proceeds from this year’s autumn lecture series at St Mary’s Cathedral will go towards restoration works on St Munchin’s Church with the aim to open it as a museum.
n Tickets cost €12 for each event with members and student concessions. They can be purchased at eventbrite.ie and will also be on sale on the door. Each event is at 8pm: firstname.lastname@example.org or 061 313 399.
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