The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence met this morning in the Dáil Chamber. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Statement of Strategy 2015-2017 refers to strengthening our influence in the EU, to the United Nations and so on but makes no mention of Irish neutrality, which is worrying in the context of the EU’s relentless progress towards militarisation. The President of the EU Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, has spoken about the need to move towards common military assets, which is about people making money from the sale of hardware. That the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statement of strategy neglects to mention our stated position on neutrality reflects badly on the Government. There is no point talking about it, it must be stated in black and white. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, was unable to explain why the departmental officials had not included reference to our stated position on neutrality in that strategy. The reply I received when I raised the matter at the committee was that the statement of strategy is not solely a policy document but an articulation of how we intend to implement our programme, which is straight out of the top drawer of Sir Humphrey’s manual on how to reply to a question without actually giving a reply.
We have spoken at length in this House on the issue of Brexit. I understand the issue is being discussed in Europe this week. The stance we have taken on this issue is in no way as aggressive as that of other EU countries, such as France, in terms of the manner in which they are pursuing businesses based in London or throughout the EU that are uncertain of their future because of Brexit. EU institutions based in England are also being pursued by other European countries. We need a strategy that will enable us to pursue EU institutions and businesses located in England in the same manner as other EU countries.
On my original point regarding Irish neutrality not being mentioned as a core principle in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Statement of Strategy 2015-2017, members of the Fine Gael Party also expressed disappointment at the lack of reference in that regard in the Department’s strategy.