News | McDonnell Brexit Address

McDonnell Brexit Address

Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP's address to the SDLP Dublin group outlining the need for a Remain vote to enhance North South cooperation.

It is a great pleasure to see so many friends here this evening as we gather to discuss the crucial upcoming EU Referendum and its potential impact on Ireland and Irish business in particular.


I want to say a special word of thanks to Maurice Regan, the chair of the SDLP Dublin Branch for hosting us and who was greatly supported by Tom Brosnan in bringing this evening together.


By now we all know just how important the vote is, how close it will be and indeed the knock on consequences for Ireland if Britain decides to come out of the European Union.


Every single vote matters.

A vote to leave would be bad for Britain, bad for Europe, bad for Ireland and awful for N.I.

Our own role in this referendum is critical.


We cannot take anything for granted and we shouldn’t leave anything to chance.


That’s why the SDLP have given their full support to the Irish4Europe campaign which is encouraging the Irish in Britain to register to vote and back the campaign to remain. We should all be lifting the telephone to our friends and relatives in Britain encouraging them to vote to ensure that Britain stays within the EU.


Friends, membership of the EU has made the British Economy Much more open, with British businesses able to freely access markets right across Europe reaching 500 million consumers through the single market.


Michael Gove might think we are better off out of the single market but I beg to differ.

He believes that the UK would be able to immediately strike multiple replacement trade deals with the rest of Europe and indeed the rest of the World if it chose to leave the EU.

This presumption

That Britain would able to cut trade deals in the EU and across the world with ease after a Brexit

Is a complete myth.

It would take 2-3 years of uncertainty, volatility and instability in order to negotiate exit arrangements, to extract the UK from existing deals with the EU.

It could take anything up to ten years to renegotiate new deals where they were possible—there would be no guarantees.

Britain would not be able to do one to one deals with individual nations; after the divorce it would still have to negotiate everything with the EU and any deal with the EU would be on EU terms not UK terms.


Of course Ireland has received direct and indirect knock-on financial benefits from Britain’s trade deals.  People across Britain and Ireland are better off for being in the EU.





As a passionately proud Irish man and European I am of course worried about the impact for Ireland as a whole if Britain exits the EU. 

Trade Barriers will be inevitable.

But a British exit from the EU would have a punishing impact on Northern Ireland in particular. 




If the British decide to withdraw from the EU this would be a huge blow to the safety, stability and security of the North.

A Brexit decision would trigger a 2nd Scottish Independence referendum and a likely breakup of the UK as we know it.

Northern Unionism would be stranded between loyalty to the Crown and their natural affinity with Scotland.


Provo dissidents would take much advantage of the instability


I want to progress Irish Unity but not through another cycle of Mayhem and murder.


Europe has been critical to peace and stability in Northern Ireland. 

It has helped normalise and stabilise relations between Britain and Ireland and in supporting vital peace-building projects in Northern Ireland – which continue even as we speak.


Northern Ireland peace-building projects have special priority for

EU funding:


PEACE IV is helping 350 schools get involved in shared education; training 21,000 teachers and helping over 6,000 victims and survivors with advocacy support from the Victims and Survivors Service.


A British exit from Europe would risk undoing decades of work which helped foster our still delicate peace process. 

I believe Our stability as a region depends on both Ireland and Britain remaining members of the EU.

The notion of re-introducing border controls between north and south, or of re-erecting trade barriers, will give many people in Dublin and Belfast sleepless nights.


We cannot let that happen.

A Brexit would also be disastrous for our efforts to stimulate private sector growth and job creation-so vital to the future of Northern Ireland, where only half the population are economically active.


With two-thirds of all Northern Ireland exports now going to EU countries it has a higher trade engagement with Europe than the UK itself.

Brexit would mean a substantial and uncertain redirection of the North’s trading focus to Asia and other countries outside the EU.


As some financial analysts note, a Brexit is also likely to lead to a devaluation of sterling that will make imports more expensive and exports cheaper.


Make no mistake about it:

By hurting the hard-earned progress made in financial services and information technology across Northern Ireland, a Brexit would jeopardise foreign direct investment, increase unemployment and drive immigration up while reducing household income



Europe’s has helped keep stability and peace between the countries of Europe so that they could never again go to war with one another again, as they did with such disastrous consequences in 1914 and 1939.

If there had not been an EU would the Balkans conflict of some years ago been contained.


Britain, inside the EU, has had a major moderating influence on the dark forces that seek to threaten our peace and stability.


The withdrawal of Britain one of the EU’s largest member states would be a defining moment in the history of the EU with wider knock-on effects for NATO, European security and international relations.


Don’t just take my word for it-five former heads of NATO have claimed that the UK would lose influence and “give succour to its enemies” by leaving the EU.


Thirteen former US Secretaries of State and defence and national security advisers, including Madeleine Albright and Leon Panetta say that the UK’s “place and influence” in the world would be diminished if it left the EU-and Europe would be “dangerously weakened”.









From a security, financial and geopolitical point of view Brexit spells disaster.

While this European Union is imperfect, at times bureaucratic and frustrating, if we were to dismantle it today we would wake up tomorrow and be trying to create something similar in its place.


So I am in favour of a reformed Europe and that process of reform must begin with Britain at the table, using all its influence to positively impact the future structures of the European Union. 


It’s time too for some within the Conservative Party to put aside their own personal political ambitions and start putting the genuine interests of British people first.


The financial success and security of these islands can only be guaranteed by a Remain vote on 23 June.


Let’s do all we can to make sure that happens.

 Thank you.

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