Ireland’s policy on EU opt-outs need to be part of wider Brexit debate – Hayes
In a speech to a Slaughter and May conference on The Future of Europe in Brussels, Brian Hayes MEP today said that in light of Brexit, Ireland must review its policy of opting out of various EU policy areas.
“Ireland’s historical policy of opting out of EU policy areas and legislation, especially in the Justice and Home Affairs area, needs to be reviewed in light of Brexit. Traditionally we have followed the UK where they seek an opt-out from EU legislation, particularly because of our close ties and the existence of the Common Travel Area between both countries.
“However, our opt-out policy puts us at a remove from the core countries of the EU. But without the UK at the table, could we become increasingly isolated as we adopt an à la carte approach to the EU? I believe this question needs to be addressed by all parties in Ireland.
“Effectively we need to do a cost-benefit analysis, setting out the pros and cons of each of the existing opt-outs and justifying why we would continue with that policy.
“Through the Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties, Ireland and the UK secured protocols allowing for opt-outs on immigration, asylum, civil law legislation, police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
“In the past, it always made sense for us to opt-out of policy areas along with the UK, as we were so interconnected on issues like migration, civil law and judicial cooperation. Yet, now the goalposts have drastically shifted with Brexit. Our future is as a fully committed member of the EU. But our continued membership of the EU needs to reflect a more grown up response in the area of common EU action, especially in the new post-Brexit world.
“It would be better to have a national debate on this issue now while the Brexit” negotiations are underway, so that we can arrive at a balanced approach. We should look again at the Schengen free travel area, police and justice cooperation and migration issues, as part of a broader Brexit debate. But our decision to opt in, must be based on clear national benefits to Ireland as a consequence of a change in policy.
“The fact is that there are many sensible pieces of EU legislation that would make our laws more progressive and would put them more in line with international standards. We have to look at this and ask whether Irish citizens or authorities are not missing out from being part of a common EU approach.
“Ireland can at any stage decide to opt in to an EU measure that has already been agreed, however, it does require Commission approval before it can be adopted into Irish law.
“We saw one example recently of Ireland using its opt-in policy to good effect. In 2015, we opted into the EU’s refugee relocation programme, which was a key tool for the EU to address the Syrian refugee crisis. We could have opted out along with the UK and Denmark but took a sensible approach and worked with our EU partners in the solution for one of Europe’s biggest crises.”
Examples of legislation that Ireland could opt into:
|“EU Blue Card” Directive (2009/50/EC): Contains measures to facilitate the admission and mobility of highly qualified migrants to the EU’s labor market by harmonising entry and residence conditions throughout the EU and by providing for a legal status and a set of rights.||Opt-out|
|Regulation (810/2009) on establishing a establishing a Community Code on Visas: Contains measures establishing the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for transit through or intended stays in the territory of the Member States not exceeding three months in any six-month period.||Opt-out|
|Return Directive (2008/115/EC): on common standards and procedures for returning illegally staying third-country nationals||Opt-out|
|Employer Sanctions Directive (2009/52/EC): This legislation provides for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals||Opt-out|
|Regulation (1052/2013) establishing the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur): This system was set up for cooperation between Member States to improve awareness and increase reaction capability at external borders. The aim is to prevent cross-border crime and irregular migration and contribute to protecting migrants’ lives.||Opt-out|