Debating the future of the EU with Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Left MEPs welcomed his comments on the situation on the island of Ireland post-Brexit, but said the EU will only have a future as a social and peaceful Union.

In the first in a series of planned debates between EU heads of state or government and MEPs on the future of the European Union, GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer highlighted the need for citizens to be at the heart the debate about the future of the EU.

“The EU is in a crisis of legitimacy. It cannot be changed with the current top-down approach. Citizens have to be fully involved. But for that to happen, they need the necessary rights and tools. That's why we have to go radically to the root of the problem and think about treaty change,” she said.

On Brexit, Zimmer said it posed a threat to social and civil rights not only in Britain, but in Ireland and throughout the EU. “There must be no backsliding to a hard border in Ireland or anywhere in the EU after Brexit. My group will do everything to safeguard the Good Friday peace agreement in its entirety.”

Zimmer finally demanded that EU leaders face the problem of inequality between and within member states. “We have to address inequalities between member states and fight poverty seriously. For that to happen, the EU must be able to act. Right now, the EU cannot do what it needs to do on crucial issues like migration, the fight against tax evasion and the fight against social inequality.”

“Today’s uncertain present will shape the future of the EU,” Irish MEP Martina Anderson told the Taoiseach. “Brexit threatens to rip our island apart, dilute the rights and freedoms we all enjoy, and stunt the economic and social development of our island.  It threatens to harden the border, reinforce partition and undermine the Good Friday peace agreement so therefore I welcome your comments about a special arrangement for the north of Ireland being possible.”

“You must hold fast on this. You must also commit to a Europe that serves people, not multinationals. This won’t be achieved in an uncompassionate, faceless Europe. It won’t be achieved in a Europe where the gap between rich and poor grows – or in a Europe of homelessness and hospital waiting lists. And it certainly won’t be achieved in PESCO or any manifestation of an aggressive, militaristic Europe” she concluded.

Referring to Varadkar’s backtracking on commitments made during Ireland’s banking crisis, Irish MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said, “Today you say PESCO doesn’t impact on our neutrality but you’ve betrayed us on the banks, and you will attempt to betray us on neutrality. You will not get away with it! The future of Europe as currently envisioned is a federal united states. This is something we did not sign up for when we joined. You don’t have a mandate for what you want. Listen to the people!”

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