Speech by Minister of State Thomas Byrne TD, at ‘Ireland and the Single Market’ EU50 Conference, 27 October 2022

29 November 2022
Minister Thomas Byrne speaking on stage at the EU50 conference.

Minister Boone,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Is mór an pléisiúr dom críoch a chur leis an gcoinfearadh seo inniu. Tá mé cinnte go n-aontóidh sibh liom gur deis an-suimiúil a bhí ann smaointe réimse iontach saineolaithe a chloisteáil.

It is a great pleasure to join you all today and a privilege to close this conference.

Throughout today’s proceedings, we have been fortunate to hear from such a wide array of talented and insightful speakers.

Including Dr Frances Ruane; representatives from IBEC, ICTU and leaders in the business community.

I would also like to pay particular thanks to those speakers who travelled to be with us here today.

Including Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, Outi Slotboom, also from the European Commission, Martin Sandbu from the Financial Times and Professor O’Brennan, who came from Bulgaria.

Je veux également remercier ma cher collègue, Laurence Boone, d’être là avec nous aujourd’hui. C’était un grand plaisir de discuter sur le marché unique et de l’avenir de notre union avec vous.

Minister Boone, you are truly very welcome here to Dublin.

Since your appointment as Minister, I have been struck by the warm regard you have shown towards Ireland.

Your engagement and support on Brexit and Northern Ireland issues is truly appreciated.

And today, we have been very fortunate to benefit from your insights on the Single Market, especially given your own background and expertise.

The French perspective is one which we truly embrace here in Ireland.

For those of you who have walked around Merrion Square in recent times, you may have noticed a large banner on the front of the French Embassy, which reads:

“France, your closest EU neighbour”

And when it comes to France and its ever-growing relationship with Ireland, I often think of a really interesting map our Embassy in Paris tweeted last year, which illustrated all the ferry crossings that have been created between Ireland and France over recent years.

Crossings from Rosslare, Cork and Dublin to places like Dunkirk and Cherbourg are now a common occurrence.

Of course, geography has always played a significant role in the politics and economics of this island.

And that fact is, perhaps, truer today than it has been, for many years.

That is why the ferry routes on that map are so important.

Because they tie Ireland, not just to France, but to the whole European Market.

The Celtic Interconnector, an ambitious joint Irish-French initiative, with co-financing from the EU, is another example of the ever-strengthening links shared between our two countries.

And once completed, the Celtic Interconnector will greatly improve our energy security and benefit electricity consumers in Ireland, France and across the EU.

Despite our own challenges of geography, Ireland is, I believe, one of the real success stories of the Single Market.

Strong trade with EU Member states is crucial to Ireland’s successful economic growth.

There are very clear benefits of our access to a single market with no customs and no tariffs and a population of 450 million.

There are lower costs and procedural benefits to using a single currency when trading with countries in the Eurozone and its 340 million people.

Regulatory alignment is also a growing advantage.

The absence of mobile roaming charges is just one example of how costs are being reduced by a single EU approach.

And this reality is replicated in many areas across a growing number of sectors.

I am proud to note that the reputation of Irish products and services is strong in Europe, with Irish businesses recognised for their innovation, flexibility and friendly business style.

You heard this morning from the Taoiseach and Commissioner McGuinness, who reflected on our fifty years in the EU, and on the progress that we have made in that time.

We also heard throughout the day the challenges as well as the opportunities of the Single Market.

And I think this illustrates a basic fact about today’s world – in essence, that two things can be true at once:

(i)Firstly, that the EU has never been stronger; and (ii)Secondly, that it has never faced greater challenges

While the Single Market offers unbounded opportunity, it also faces the risk of not delivering for economies and citizens, if the political will is not there to ensure its completion.

The constellation of challenges we face today are some of the most technical and intractable that we have ever faced.

The interlocking crises of climate, war, and inflation are strong headwinds to navigate.

But that is why today has been so timely.

In politics and in all walks of life, there is a danger of just talking to ourselves.

It is a trap we can all fall into.

And in order to ensure that Single Market delivers for the businesses and citizens of Europe over the next 30 years, and beyond, it is important that all of us advocate the advantages of the Single Market.

I believe that businesses, in particular, can play a really important role in advocating the benefits of the Single Market.

And I strongly encourage the business sector to play their role in advocating the benefits of the Single Market.

This is a difficult time for the world but let us not forget, that together, we have overcome difficult times before.

And conferences, such as this one, provide us with a valuable opportunity to reflect, take stock and exchange ideas on how we can best navigate this new reality.

And on that note, I would like to commend officials at the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment – and most especially – officials at my own Department of Foreign Affairs for their tireless work in making this conference such a success.

Your work is truly appreciated.

So, it’s been a long day and we all have plenty to think about.

I would like to invite you all now to our conference reception in the Senior College Room at Trinity College – located just above the dining hall.

Thank you for your presence here today.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.