Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Engagement with Mr. Barry Andrews, MEP

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will leave Mr. Andrews with a final question. Noelle O'Connell from European Movement Ireland has written to the committee highlighting a recent Red C poll. No doubt Mr. Andrews has access to these figures but I will highlight a few of them. On a positive front, 84% of the people surveyed agreed that Ireland should remain as part of the EU. That is really strong and is reflective of what people are saying on the ground. One hears it through the media as well. Interestingly, only 35% felt that in order to deal with a crisis such as Covid-19, Ireland and other member states should give the EU more control over healthcare policy. I assume that is a reaction to the roll-out of vaccines in the European Union. There is a weakness there. Some 29%, which is a very low figure, agree that there should be more political and economic integration in the EU, even if that means member states lose control over economic policy such as tax. That is a very strong and loud message about protecting our own sovereignty in economic decisions.

Going back to a positive statistic, which will lead to my question, 71% of people interviewed in that Red C poll agree that the EU should do more to regulate digital media platforms, including online sources of news, information sharing platforms, social media, etc. I acknowledge that Mr. Andrews's committee deals with digital trade and that this is not his area. However, I am thinking about this in light of the fact that 52% of the people interviewed believe that we need to hold the Conference on the Future of Europe to reform the EU, which is a low enough percentage. Does Mr. Andrews think we can make progress on the debate about trying to regulate digital media, in light of the Irish people's opinion that we would stand stronger together as a European Union bloc on an issue like this, in order to take on the big tech companies and the difficulties and trouble we have with some social media platforms? Is this something on which we can make ground at a European Union level, rather than having to wait for discussions at the Conference on the Future of Europe? I would appreciate Mr. Andrews' opinion on that.


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