Irish MEPs remain on subs’ bench amid uncertainty over Brexit delay

Two Irish MEPs have voiced their frustration at not being able to take their place in the European Parliament due to the Brexit impasse.

On Friday, European Ambassadors postponed a decision on how long to delay the UK’s departure from the European Union. It was envisaged that Britain would leave the EU on October 31.

Barry Andrews, a first-time candidate for Fianna Fail in Dublin, and Deirdre Clune – a sitting Fine Gael MEP re-elected for the Ireland South constituency – were due to take the seats they won in May when the UK left the EU.

However, the date for Britain leaving the EU looks set to extend beyond the end of October and the pair say they are in limbo until a date is confirmed.

A European Parliament spokesman has confirmed the two MEPs have no formal or informal position, expenses or facilities until the UK leaves the European Union.

Under EU law, 751 MEPs, including 73 from the UK, were elected following the European elections in May.

Deirdre Clune has been doing a university course while she waits to return to the European Parliament (Fine Gael/PA)

Eleven MEPs were elected – four from Midlands North West, four from South and three from Dublin.

The elections were conducted with an extra seat in the South and Dublin constituencies, but the winners of those two seats cannot take their place in parliament until the British MEPs leave.

Mr Andrews said in the meantime he has been keeping busy with speaking engagements and voluntary work.

“Obviously it is frustrating from a personal standpoint,” he said.

“However, I would be happy to encourage patience on all sides of the Brexit debate and discourage Brexit fatigue.

“It is obviously not in my interests to say that but it is in the national interest and it looks as if we are reaching an end point to the Brexit process and it is no longer a question of if they will leave, but when. There is not a lot we can do until we get that final clarity.”

Ms Clune won the last seat in the Ireland South constituency following several days of recounts.

“Back in May, we thought we would be good to go in October but all we can do is wait,” she said.

“It remains to be seen if there will be a general election in the UK as well.

“It is an unprecedented situation. It feels like being in limbo because you have been declared elected but you can’t take up your seat and now we are still not sure when exactly we can take them.

“There is no point getting uptight or annoyed about things that are totally out of my control.

“There is a new commissioner coming in November and that is when the real work begins. There are 27 people in this situation around the EU waiting to take up a position so we’re all in the same boat.”

European Parliament election
Barry Andrews celebrates after winning a seat in May’s election (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Clune said she is lucky because, unlike Mr Andrews, as a former MEP she is entitled a “transitional allowance” ie her full salary.

“I am doing a course in corporate governance in University College Dublin and I have been keeping on top of reading files about all that is going on in the European Parliament as you would when you are a MEP,” she said.

“I don’t have to travel so if there is one silver lining it is that my alarm clock is not going off so that I can catch the flight to Brussels.”

All the UK MEPs were due to leave the European Parliament on October 31 but this remains up in the air until an official leave date is announced.

“Until that point, there is no legal basis for the European Parliament to attribute any particular status to these two individuals,” the European Parliament spokesman said.

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