UK departure uncertainty could impact number of Irish MEPs

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit also extends to the European elections in Ireland, and may impact on the number of MEPs the country can elect, according to one MEP.

Mairead McGuinness, MEP and First Vice President of the European Parliament, noted that should Article 50 be delayed further, the UK may have to take part in the European elections – which would mean another reallocation of seats at parliament to accommodate this.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Pat Kenny Show this morning (Monday, March 25), McGuinness said:

While we would like the UK to stay, it does complicate decisions that have been taken around the reallocation of seats that the UK were giving up – two seats, for example, coming to Ireland, three going to the Netherlands.

The MEP said that there would possibly be an openness to this in the European Parliament – but only for productive purposes as opposed to just delaying uncertainty.

“We don’t know if society in the UK is ready for a second referendum; and it’s not my call, but I do feel there are deep divisions around Brexit which have not healed and probably will never heal.”

McGuinness said that it is up to UK politicians to set a path forward – but added that these need to be mindful of the EU perspective.

‘Take control of the debate’

If there are elections in the UK, she added, British MEPs who are “positive of Europe” will have to “really take control of the debate”.

“There would need to be a very robust debate in the UK; again because of the divisions I’m not so sure it will be an easy debate. And none of us take any joy or pleasure in the impasse in both the House of Commons and in British society.”

Turning to how the dilemma of whether additional Irish MEPs will be elected or not, or potentially be kept on stand-by, McGuinness said:

“We don’t have an answer to that because we don’t know what the outcome will be this week or political debate and votes in the House of Commons.

“In good faith we accepted the UK were leaving; we had to make decisions on the size and shape of the next European Parliament; and just a number of their seats – 37 – have been reallocated.

“I think it does throw into some uncertainty what’s going to happen around the elections in Ireland and in other member states.”

McGuinness also added that there is another potential spanner in the works, noting that constituency boundaries in Ireland had been redrawn on account of the additional two seats, with midlands counties Laois and Offaly moving from the Midlands-North West constituency to Ireland South, which would increase from four seats to five.

The Dublin constituency was increased from three seats to four, she added.

“So that’s done as well; where will that sit with the prospect of either a longer extension or indeed no Brexit at all and the revocation of Article 50?”

Turning back to the issue at hand, McGuinness said: “Those debates will be tough this week amongst ourselves as we’re in Strasbourg, as they are within the House of Commons.

But I mean no one predicted that this would be so difficult, especially those who promoted a referendum with no plan and who thought that all you had to do was open the door and walk out and slam it – and that’s not how it’s working.

“In a sense this isn’t the UK who voted leave,” McGuinness said.