Belfast Telegraph

British Eurosceptic press has shaped negative view of EU, says Juncker adviser

Catherine Day, a special adviser to Jean Claude Juncker, addressed an Irish parliamentary committee.

A special adviser to Jean-Claude Juncker spoke about the post-Brexit challenges (Matt Cardy/PA)
A special adviser to Jean-Claude Juncker spoke about the post-Brexit challenges (Matt Cardy/PA)

The Eurosceptic press in Britain has played a large role in the negative perception of the EU as a remote and soulless technocracy, a special adviser to the EU Commission president has said.

Catherine Day, a special adviser to Jean Claude Juncker, told an Irish parliamentary committee that the outlook of the European Union would become more continental post-Brexit as member states would no longer have to contend with the reluctance of the UK.

Ms Day was before the EU Affairs Committee in Dublin on Wednesday to discuss alliance building within the EU.

She told TDs and senators that she was well placed to know “how badly the EU has suffered from a bad press as a remote and soulless technocracy”.

France and Germany will obviously play a bigger role in shaping future direction of the EU. Catherine Day

“The British Eurosceptic press has had a lot to do with that,” Ms Day said.

“They’ve used ridicule to really try to undermine what is very solid and praiseworthy progress in a lot of areas.”

Ms Day said Irish people had a “strong desire” to understand and be part of what was happening in the EU, but she warned that it would be hard to maintain that level of interest post-Brexit.

“We’ve seen now with Brexit what can happen when people feel alienated from that process,” she said.

“While we may be enjoying at the moment a Brexit dividend in terms of Irish support for the EU, I think we know that it’s very hard to maintain that intensity of interest and level of focus in more normal times.”

Discussing the future of the EU, Ms Day said the outlook of the union would “inevitably” become more continental once the UK exits.

“France and Germany will obviously play a bigger role in shaping future direction of the EU,” she said.

“They will no longer have to contend with the questioning and the reluctant attitude of the UK.”

But she said Ireland would miss the role the UK played as a “buffer” between France and Germany in terms of organising a different debate, as it had never known the EU without the UK.

On a positive note, Ms Day said the EU was likely to develop stronger social policies without the opposition of the UK.

“This will certainly be needed to address the challenge of populism,” she said.

“The EU does need to be able to show that it cares about all its citizens and that stronger economic policies will be accompanied by social policies that deliver.”

Ms Day told the committee that Ireland had enjoyed “huge solidarity” from the other EU members states and EU institutions throughout the Brexit process, which she attributed to the mobilisation of politicians and diplomats.

“We’re going to need to keep up that effort in future,” she said.

“We have to reach out beyond the English speaking world to our continental partners. That means travelling to them and it means keeping in touch on a regular basis not just when we have a problem.”

She added: “The good news is that all small members states are coming to the same conclusion. They all see what we see – the need to work together permanently to ensure that the voice of the small member states is heard.”

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