Irish ministers plead for UK to stay

Irish Government ministers issued a last-minute plea to the British public to vote to remain in the EU.

As polls open today in the Brexit vote, Irish ministers have again urged voters to do all they can to ensure Britain votes to stay in the EU.

During a Seanad debate, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he wanted “our closest neighbour and partner to remain a member of a reformed EU”.

“This is a view which enjoys near-unanimous support within both Houses of the Oireachtas, though I recognise and respect that there is a different point of view,” said Mr Flanagan.

“The reasons underpinning the Government’s position will also be familiar to you — these include important considerations in relation to our economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area, and, of course, the EU itself.”

Mr Flanagan set out the extensive work undertaken by the Government and by Irish diplomats and officials on this issue since a referendum was first proposed by UK prime minister David Cameron in 2013.

“During the course of a visit to the UK in early April, I identified a desire among the local Irish community to hear the Irish perspective from Government and opposition. My own experience of referendums here meant that I was aware of the sensitivities but happy to give our perspective, if asked.

“The UK electorate will, of course, have the final say on the matter. Polls suggest both outcomes are equally possible and the govern-ment is as prepared as it possibly can be for both outcomes. Whatever the result, the Government will strive to protect and promote Ireland’s key interests. The Oireachtas will, of course, play its full part in that important work.”

In Britain, leaders from both campaigns were making a final pitch for votes on the last day of campaigning.

Mr Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron were addressing rallies arguing the UK will be better off and safer with a Remain vote in today’s poll.

Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are appealing to people to vote Leave — with the ex-mayor of London urging them to “believe in our country”.

More than 46m people are eligible to vote in the referendum.

Mr Cameron, whose own future hangs in the balance, said he would lobby for further changes to free movement rules in the light of European Court rulings if the UK votes to remain and said the process of EU reform will “continue on Friday”, insisting that reducing net migration was “not an unrealistic ambition”.

However, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, appeared to rule that out.

Mr Juncker appeared to reject that option as he told reporters in Brussels that “out is out”, suggesting if there was a vote to leave “there will be no kind of re-negotiation”, saying Mr Cameron “got the maximum he could receive” after months of talks which ended in February.

Meanwhile, former prime minister John Major characterised Leave supporters as “gravediggers of our prosperity” and said a Brexit may result in a “broken Britain with less importance and less influence in the world”.

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