The most realistic threat to Ireland from Britain’s growing Euroscepticism is that it remains part of the EU but in a much weakened state, which undermines the common interests of both countries, according to outgoing Labour MP David Miliband.
Speaking in Dublin last night at an event organised by Ibec, Mr Miliband said the rise of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) was more a revolt against mainstream parties rather than outright hostility to the EU.
Nevertheless, Europe is unpopular, based on some real and some perceived grievances. “And there is a fever in the Tory party on this issue. It has been long in the making, and is deep in its festering. It is impossible to get through a Tory selection meeting without an arms race on European policy. And if the Tory tragedy is activists obsessed with Europe, Labour’s tragedy is the opposite: not that everyone asks about Europe at selection meetings, but that no one asks about it.”
And even though there is a risk that Britain could leave the EU, the more likely scenario is that it will remain a member but in a semi-detached state.
Mr Miliband, foreign secretary from 2007 to 2010, was defeated by his brother, Ed Miliband, for the party’s leadership following the resignation of Gordon Brown in 2010. He recently resigned from the House of Commons to take up a position as CEO with the New York-based International Rescue Committee.
During last night’s speech, he took a swipe at the Tory peer, Nigel Lawson’s recent anti-euro outburst, which gained widespread support in the UK conservative media. Mr Miliband described Mr Lawson’s argument for Britain to leave the EU as being “deeply flawed.”
EU membership has enabled Britain to enter regional trade agreements among other benefits of being part of a larger bloc, Mr Miliband said.
He also pointed to shared interests with similar EU countries such as Ireland, Germany, Holland Sweden and Poland, which should form the basis of reform.
However, the EU and the eurozone in particular faces significant challenges and without deep meaningful reform, then the region does not have a future.
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