Irish President Higgins: Brexit could have serious consequences for Ireland

Irish President Michael D. Higgins, right and his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos review the Presidential Guard during a welcome ceremony in Athens, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Higgins is on a two-day official visit to Greece and will meet senior Greek politicians. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and the fact that its future relationship is not yet clear could have serious consequences for Ireland, as well as the peace process, Irish President Michael D. Higgins said during a speech at the official dinner held in his honour by President Prokopios Pavlopoulos.

However, he continued, Ireland continues to work with the other EU member-states and the Taskforce on Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom, noting his country is “particularly grateful” to Greece for friendship and solidarity, which shows the two countries are facing these challenges together.

Higgins also spoke of the common values and principles that connect Ireland and Greece, adding that the commitment of the two peoples and their struggles for freedom and democracy. He also noted the scope for widening co-operation between the two countries and invited his Greek counterpart to visit Ireland soon.

Opening the dinner earlier, Pavlopoulos noted the “consistent and unwavering” course of Greece and Ireland within the EU, pointing out that, at the same time, other member-states are either disregarding their basic European obligations, such as the refugee issue, or worse still, “abandon the ‘European Boat’ due to purely economic calculations, of doubtful correctness.”

He also stressed that both Greeks and the Irish have proven that they are conscious Europeans historically, culturally and ideologically, noting the common principles and values that govern Greeks and Irish, such as freedom and the democracy. The Greek president said Greece and Ireland are two small countries geographically, but they have a Diaspora that far exceeds their size.

Addressing his Irish counterpart, he described him as an outstanding man of letters who has devoted his life serving the principles and values of freedom and democracy.

Earlier, the future of Europe and the challenges created by Brexit and migration were discussed in a meeting between Higgins and New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

According to ND, the two sides expressed a will to further deepen bilateral relations between Greece and Ireland and discussed the role of the diaspora for the two countries, as well as the impact of the economic crisis.

ALso, deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis hosted a working lunch with the Irish President, attended by their respective Labour Ministers, Efi Achtsioglou and Regina Doherty.

Dragasakis said in a tweet they discussed employment, the welfare state and Europe’s future.