Blow for David Cameron as Ireland admits strong opposition to plans to curb EU migration

Irish foreign minister hits out in Westminster speech

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The Irish Government has dealt a serious blow to David Cameron’s hopes of securing agreement within the European Union to limit numbers of migrants moving to Britain.

Dublin also said for the first time that it would argue strongly and publicly for the United Kingdom to remain in the bloc if Mr Cameron stages a referendum on the issue in 2017.

Charles Flanagan, the Irish foreign minister, raised a major question mark over the Prime Minister’s pledge to agree a limit to EU migration as part of a renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership terms. His comments were significant because Ireland is widely viewed as the UK’s closest ally in Brussels.

Mr Cameron is due to set out details of his demands to Brussels over restricting EU migration by Christmas.


Speaking in Westminster, Mr Flanagan said: “To try to place any general limitations on the free movement of EU citizens within the Union would in my view strike at a basic principle on which the Union is founded.”

He said: “I cannot conceive of any way in which such limitations would find the necessary support around the table.”

Mr Flanagan added: “I am a firm believer in the freedom of movement of people. I see first-hand the contribution that citizens from some of the newer member states have made towards Ireland’s economic recovery in the last few years.”

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Flanagan also said the Dublin Government would not maintain a diplomatic silence if Mr Cameron wins next year’s general election and holds a referendum on EU membership.

“Irish people north and south have many serious issues at stake were Britain to end its membership of the European Union. These issues are fundamental and we cannot remain silent on these matters,” he said.