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Time for a Marshall Plan for Europe's neighbourhood to solve migration crisis

21 June 2018

Speech by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Remarks by Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin TD in response to the address by Jean-Claude Juncker to the joint sitting of the houses of the Oireachtas, 21 June 2018

When the Irish economy collapsed in 2008, our National Economic and Social Council produced an important report on Ireland's Five-Part Crisis.

The five parts were banking, our tax base, the economy generally, the social implications and Ireland's reputation.

The core recommendation of the report was for an integrated response.

And that's exactly what we need in the European Union.

We are facing several major crises simultaneously across Europe:

Brexit;

Migration;

Populism;

Climate change;

New technologies displacing secure employment.

And woven throughout all of these crises there is public anxiety.

We need to understand that people across Europe are afraid.

They are afraid of being left behind by the global economy.

They are afraid of poverty in old age.

They are afraid their children will have fewer opportunities.

They are afraid that globalisation is out of control and that the natural environment is ruined forever.

Populists are very good at tapping into people's fears.

But they don't offer any solutions, other than hate, and blame of others.

We must show that the European Union mainstream understands people's fears.

And that we have a solution in our hands to all of these problems.

Ireland’s immediate priority is Brexit.

The UK’s decision, compounded by its inability or reluctance to set out an acceptable pathway to future relationships, presents us with real difficulties.

But we must also look through a wider lens.

Our industrial activity has disrupted the natural climate in the developing world, as well as in our own countries.

A Social Europe would greatly increase our investment in these countries to help them transform their economies: a Marshall Plan for Europe’s neighbourhood.

Jobs and other opportunities at home, across the Middle East and Africa, will make risky migration to Europe less attractive.

Social Europe would also invest more in formerly industrialized regions of Europe, which are hotbeds of support for populism (and Brexit) after decades of economic decline.

A Social Europe should be more attractive to some in the British Labour Party who see Brexit as an opportunity for State-led investment to counteract poverty and inequality.

Social Europe would provide a stronger safety net, to empower people to experiment with new forms of work, and new fields of economic activity, to compensate for the rise of robotization.

Social Europe would recognise that we can't measure or understand public anxieties through crude socio-economic statistics like GDP or GNI*.

We need to better understand people's state of mind, and their fears.

Which we have the means to address, if we have the will.

Are we are willing to put in sufficient investment to actually make an immediate difference in people's lives, which will require a new approach?

Our challenge is agreeing how to fund the needed investment in a sustainable way – which can be done.

But above all, what is needed now is a real and practical demonstration of European solidarity.