Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Martin McGuinness' full speech at London Brexit event

16 June, 2016 - by Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican party. Our core values are those of sovereignty and equality.

We are an all-Ireland party. We are the only party with MEPs elected in each of the four European constituencies in Ireland. We speak with one voice, an all-Ireland voice in the EU.

There is much we want to change in Ireland and in the EU.

We want to end the power of the British government to impose their policies in any part of Ireland. Brexit will increase that power.

We want to end partition. Brexit has the potential to entrench partition. We want an All-Ireland approach to the EU.

We want to change the EU, to build a progressive, prosperous and social Europe.  An EU that respects sovereignty and is accountable.

Brexit will hamper trade and investment across Ireland.

Brexit will remove the minimum safeguards that the EU provides and hand these powers of workers’ rights to a Tory British government.

Successive British governments have set aside all human rights norms in the north of Ireland. That is why the EU convention on Human Rights is a central tenant of the Good Friday Agreement. In the event of a Brexit the British government could repeal the Human Rights Act and walk away from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sinn Féin is campaigning vigorously against a Brexit and encouraging people to vote to Put Ireland First and vote to Remain.

A British vote to leave the European Union would have huge implications for the entire island of Ireland and in my opinion would run counter to the democratic wishes of the Irish people.

Many aspects of our society from community groups to business and education to agriculture have been able to grow and expand as a result of the support they have received from the European Union.

That EU funding was available to address the decades of underinvestment by successive British Governments. History demonstrates that the loss of EU funding in the north will not be replaced by London. The north is peripheral to the concerns of the Tories.

Impact on the North of Ireland

• Recent estimates put the cost of BREXIT to the northern economy at €1 billion per annum and the cost to the southern economy at €3 billion per annum.

• In the event of a BREXIT, the agricultural sector in the north stands to lose €326 million in direct agricultural support payments per year.

• BREXIT is likely to lead to the reintroduction of border controls, limiting freedom of movement, harming trade and adversely affecting cross-border communities and workers, creating barriers to education, health and welfare. A British exit from Europe would be bad for the development of all-Ireland integration and for border communities in the border region.

In addition to possible tariffs, customs posts and barriers to trade, an isolationist position resulting from BREXIT could lead to the application of domestic immigration controls.

• Over the past decade the EU has spent over £1 billion in the north and border areas on projects for furthering the peace process. These funds would be lost.

• And while BREXIT wouldn't automatically mean a repeal of the Human Rights Act, the current British government plan for its repeal endangers rights and safeguards enshrined in European law, and threatens to jeopardise the peace process.

I have also travelled the world with my Executive colleagues successfully attracting 40,000 jobs to the North through Foreign Direct Investment in the last Assembly mandate on the basis that we are a gateway to Europe.

It simply does not make sense that some should now look to close that gateway.

Workers’ rights

Our EU membership has also guaranteed protection for workers’ rights and entitlements.

These include laws or regulations covering parental leave, unfair dismissal, health and safety at work and anti-discrimination laws.

Brexit would jeopardise all of that. It may also result in the end of the application of EU laws on public procurement, which have benefited workers, and would disadvantage communities in the north of Ireland.

Are people seriously arguing that it would be a good thing to throw all that away?


It is unfortunate that much of the Brexit debate has been shaped by the question of immigration. And as someone looking in, it appears to me that the attitudes to this issue have ranged from the ill-informed to the downright racist.

A decision as momentous as the one faced on June 23rd should be based on facts – and the facts are that immigration has been a benefit to the economy here.

A recent report by The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) predicted that a two-thirds reduction in immigration post-Brexit would see the economy shrink by nine percent by 2065, while economic output per person would be about 0.8 percent lower.

They also found that, even if there were an increase in wages because of Brexit, these benefits would be offset by higher taxes caused by the shrinking economy.

So the facts don't support a Brexit. And as Irish people who have built lives for themselves in countries like Britain and throughout the world, neither do the moral arguments.

There are no people better qualified than the Irish to understand the challenges faced by immigrants.

No one is better qualified to understand the contribution they make to their host nation.

Irish blood sweat and tears built nations the world over.

We shouldn't turn our back on those who are now facing the same journeys that Irish people have faced for generations.

Euro reform

Of course, there are many frustrations with the European Union. I share those frustrations and there are many elements, which we must work to change.

We understand why an increasing number of progressive forces have lost faith in it, for legitimate reasons, particularly the democratic deficit and the dominance of neoliberal ideology and austerity.

However, we shouldn't allow those concerns to be exploited by a British Government, which is using EU membership and the BREXIT referendum as a bargaining tool to further their right wing, anti-poor and anti-worker agenda.

The battle for reform can't be won by withdrawing.

It can only be won by uniting the socialist and progressive forces within Europe and those governments and parties – like ourselves – who dare to challenge the policy of austerity.

Sinn Féin believes that Ireland’s place is in Europe, however we do not believe in a federal Europe. Rather, we believe in a social Europe, a Europe of equality and solidarity, a Europe of Equals akin to an Ireland of Equals.  

Sinn Féin believes in national sovereignty and the rights of individual countries to safeguard their domestic institutional and policy choice, while not excluding the importance of adhering to human rights and promoting social equality and development.

The British Government agenda, on the other hand, is entirely regressive and ignores the severe consequences BREXIT would have for the island of Ireland and for Irish people living here.

We cannot allow the narrow interests of a section of the Tory party to drag us out of Europe and set our political agenda.

The way to do that is that voting to remain on June 23rd.

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