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Brian Hayes

Fine Gael MEP says Ireland needs to re-examine its neutrality ahead of Brexit

Jean-Claude Juncker has called for the EU to implement plans for a common defence strategy

IRELAND NEEDS TO re-examine its neutral status as Britain moves closer to leaving the European Union (EU), Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has said.

Hayes made the comments following European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual state of the union address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.

In his speech, Juncker pushed for the EU to implement plans for a common defence strategy — what critics call an “EU army”.

He proposed a European intelligence unit to ensure the automatic sharing of data on suspected jihadists, and for a planned European prosecutor’s office to be able to pursue those involved in cross-border terrorist transactions.

Juncker also proposed the creation of a European cybersecurity agency to defend against a growing threat he warns is more dangerous to democratic and economic stability than conventional war.

Cybersecurity and terrorism 

Speaking to EuroParlRadio after the address, Hayes said Ireland’s neutrality needs to be looked at.

The threats now aren’t threats of armies or tanks rolling into one country. The threats now are cybersecurity, jihadist terrorism.

“They’re the new threats and I think the discussion on the future of Europe at home and here allows us an opportunity to look again at our defence commitments, to look again at our security and to look at how we can … be a more effective and a more integrated tool of policy within the European Union.

“We helped build this thing called Europe. We’re one of the oldest, most grown up, wealthiest members of this club. We’ve got to defend it too in my view and I think we need to look at this policy, especially now that Britain are leaving the European Union,” Hayes stated.

Juncker dealt with Brexit in fewer than 100 words in his speech, saying Britain and the EU would “regret” the decision but that the EU must not be held back.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy criticised Juncker’s speech, saying: “He recommends that EU goes further down the road of neoliberal policies and away from a more social and democratic Europe. This will see the creation of an EU army, more dangerous trade deals, increased liberalisation of key utilities and less democratic oversight.

“It is a charter for an EU driven by the interests of large multinational corporations and dominated by the larger states. This will inevitably result in further alienation from the EU by member states and citizens and further political instability,” Carthy said.

Contains reporting from © AFP 2017

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