Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Why we launched Irish4Europe

The Irish4Europe campaign is a civic campaign, founded by European Movement and run by Irish people in the United Kingdom voting Remain on 23 June. It launched last week in Westminster and its three key aims are for Irish people living in the UK to know they can vote, to register to vote, and to vote ‘Remain’ in the European Union referendum.

The campaign was set up because Irish care passionately about the outcome of the upcoming referendum and we want to give voice to the concerns and the issues that matter deeply and in some cases uniquely to Irish people living in the UK when it comes to the issue of the EU referendum, and the fallout that a British – Northern Irish exit would cause.

We are invested in this referendum not merely through the fact that the Irish people living in Britain and Northern Ireland number over 600,000 have a vote, but because of the close social, cultural and economic ties that exist between us. As close friends, colleagues and neighbours we want Britain alongside Ireland at the table in EU and we also believe that the EU is stronger with Britain there. We believe that for continued economic and social stability, freedom of movement, trade and relations between our islands and on the island of Ireland, things as they stand are better than they have ever been, and that the case for Remain is plain.

The EU has been wonderful for Northern Ireland – and it is a reason at the heart of why we care as deeply as we do. In terms of the normalisation of relations on the island and between our islands, in terms of the hard border being removed, in terms of the Peace Funds that have promoted cross community cohesion, in terms of Common Agricultural Policy funding to farmers that have supported the economy, in terms of trade and investment and the free flow of people across the island for work and leisure – the European Union provided a space where Ireland and Britain could work as equals on the two islands’ common interests – it is impossible to say just how important this has been in the transformation of Northern Ireland.

There is much discussion also about trade between the two islands and between Ireland north and south, and there is no denying how significant this is. Britain is Ireland’s largest export market while Ireland is the UK’s fifth largest market and the close working relationships allow trade and employment on the island of Ireland, with people and goods travelling freely. What alternative arrangements would look like in the event of a Brexit remains unclear and uncertain.

In addition to the economic unknowns are the social and cultural unknowns that concern Irish people. How would it impact the movement of people traveling for work or leisure, school or GAA training? Between Britain and Ireland – could the freedom of Irish people to travel and work freely be restricted if the UK votes to leave the EU? Irish citizens have a unique classification in the UK that predates both of our memberships of the EU. There is no guarantee, in particular, that the Ireland Act, 1949, would remain unchallenged by Europe itself – many lawyers have speculated that the EU might rightly ask why Ireland should have a ‘special’ arrangement with the UK when the rest of the European Union does not? Simply, there are no guarantees and we believe firmly that existing arrangements as they stand are at their best, and need to be sustained.

Although we have a huge amount at stake in the referendum, we also have a say in the referendum, and Irish4Europe encourages Irish people to get registered and lean in to the discussion on the referendum. Be you first, second, third generation Irish or in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast or Cardiff, we encourage you to talk about it, write about it, tweet about it and use your voice and use your vote and vote Remain on 23 June.

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Claire Tighe is coordinator of the Irish4Europe Campaign | @Irish4Europe #KnowRegisterVote //  http://irishforeurope.org  // www.facebook.com/irish4europe

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Claire Tighe

is vice-chair of the Labour party Irish society

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