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23 July 2024  

NUI Chancellor points to Peter Sutherland’s prescience on Brexit


In a further tribute to the late Peter Sutherland, the NUI Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning drew attention to views expressed by Dr Sutherland in January 2014, in the NUI Dr Garret FitzGerald Memorial lecture in NUI Galway on the topic European Integration and the Taming of Nationalism. Dr Manning said ‘Peter Sutherland’s prescient remarks in 2014 on growing disenchantment in the United Kingdom with the EU seem all the more relevant today and are worth repeating now’.

An extract from the lecture follows. The full lecture is available to watch or can be downloaded below:

Unfortunately, my fear is that the United Kingdom has an unchanging and unchangeable perspective on sovereignty and that this may precipitate a crisis. Its prevailing political position has constantly been to reduce the EU to little more than a free trade area and, even then, one with an essentially intergovernmental character. By this I mean specifically an entity that merely entails cooperation between sovereign nation states. For example, the competences and authority of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, which are supranational, are now being put in question by many parliamentarians even more vociferously than ever before. …

Peter Sutherland SC

Dr Sutherland in January 2014, speaking at the NUI Dr Garret FitzGerald Memorial lecture in NUI Galway

While Europe badly needs all the qualities that the United Kingdom brings to the table such as its profound democratic credentials, its devotion to the rule of law and to an open market trading position, the price for its retention should not be the undermining of the very essence of the EU as it is. We have to be clear on this. One aspect of this relates to the concept of free movement of people that is particularly in the sights of Eurosceptics.

The basic silence of other Member States regarding this British debate is being interpreted by some in the United Kingdom – wrongly in my view – as a willingness to move further, by way of accommodation, than will prove to be the case. The relative silence is because there is as yet nothing to debate. If the British fail in the negotiation, then it is hard to see any referendum on membership being passed. Nor should anyone take consolation from the assumption that Labour, if elected, will not hold a referendum. They have been studiously silent on the matter.

….It seems inevitable that Britain will adopt a model on Swiss or Norwegian lines that will retain market access to the British market and vice versa.


Download the Lecture and Response

pdf  Dr Garret FitzGerald Memorial
       Lecture 2014 (677kb)

pdf  Professor Gerard Quinn        Response (117kb)