Irish ambassador Dan Mulhall urges Britain along path at heart of Europe

 

Deputy Political Editor

The new Irish ambassador to Britain has sounded the alarm over this country’s rising tide of Euroscepticism, urging the UK to remain “fully engaged” in the European Union.

Dan Mulhall said Ireland, which sells a fifth of its exports to Britain, was worried by the “unwelcome element of insecurity” caused by debate over the UK’s place in Europe.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Mulhall also spoke of his pride over how immigrant workers from eastern and central Europe have integrated into Irish society.

His comments reflect the dismay in Dublin over the impact of the continuing political turmoil in Britain over the EU on the Irish economy.

Mr Mulhall, who arrived in London last month, said: “The debate here simply introduces an unwelcome element of uncertainty in a situation where we have been partners in Europe for the last 40 years.

“We in Ireland can’t be indifferent to this debate. We cannot ignore it and say it’s simply a matter for Britain because it will have implications outside of Britain and particularly for Ireland.”

Mr Mulhall said any change in “the nature of Britain’s engagement with the European Union” would have an immediate effect on Ireland.

“We have a stake in the outcome of this British debate,” he said. “What I have been saying, what Irish ministers have been saying, is we hope Britain will remain fully engaged in the European Union. We think it’s good for British-Irish relations, good for Europe and ultimately good for Britain.”

Ahead of Romanians and Bulgarians receiving unrestricted rights in January to work anywhere in the EU, Mr Mulhall compared the ease with which workers from new EU states have been assimilated in Ireland without the hostility they have faced elsewhere.

“There are proportionately more people from the member states that joined in 2004 in Ireland than there are in Britain,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that this has worked extremely well, even in a country like Ireland, where there is no tradition whatsoever of immigration.

“There’s a lot of populism around at the moment in Europe and I’m happy to say that in Ireland we have retained a strong, pragmatic political debate which has not drifted towards that kind of populism.”

Mr Mulhall said relations between Britain and Ireland were better than they had ever been. He mainly attributed this to the continuing peace in Northern Ireland. He said the Troubles had “cast a pall over Northern Ireland and further afield and did clearly complicate relations between Britain and Ireland”.

He said the Queen’s visit to the Republic in May 2011 was an “extraordinary success” and a landmark moment.

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