17th June 2016

BREXIT Newspaper Article

brexitIt would appear that the jury is still out on whether or not the UK will vote to leave the EU on June 23rd. One can never fully rely on polls, as demonstrated recently in the Irish and U.K. general elections; we should not assume Britain will vote to remain in the EU. Ireland did not enter the EEC in 1973 without Britain entering also. When British membership of the EEC was twice vetoed by President De Gaul of France in the 1960’s, Ireland did not proceed with her application for membership; such was our economic dependence on the UK at that time.

Ireland and Britain joined the EEC together 43 years ago. The Economic Adjustment Programme for Ireland, known as the “Troika Bailout”, negotiated by the Fianna Fáil – Green Party coalition government with the European Commission, ECB and IMF dimmed enthusiasm for the EU for many. The cost of this 2010 bailout for our sovereignty and national debt was high; thankfully we have since exited the bailout under the Fine Gael- Labour coalition.

Despite these concerns, Ireland has benefited along with the UK from our shared membership of the EU. Peaceful coexistence between member states and a single market trade infrastructure are sound achievements when you consider the alternative of trade barriers.

The November 2015 ESRI report on the potential implications of Brexit set out some sobering considerations. The likelihood of significantly reduced bilateral trade flows of 20% would have serious effects on our trade, especially in merchandise, agriculture and food production.

Businesses large and small that export to the U.K. worry about Brexit. The ESRI report points out that trade between Britain and Ireland directly supports 400,000 jobs, half of them in Ireland, while 43% of exports from indigenous Irish companies go to the UK. Britain also provides leadership on free trade, reduction in red tape and other pro-enterprise policies at EU level.

If Britain leaves the EU, will the U.K. respond quickly to potential instability in the markets? Will Irish trade interests be safeguarded in potential complex trade negotiations that Britain will have to enter with the EU? This uncertainty may weaken sterling and lead to investment instability.

A Brexit would also undermine EU rules on climate change policy and renewables. The search for a peaceful solution in Northern Ireland was helped by the common membership that Ireland and the U.K. share within the EU. Building the foundations of the peace process, the Anglo Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration and the Good Friday agreement in 1998 were the result of painstaking negotiations between both governments over years. Regular meetings of the EEC and EU provided an opportunity to discuss Northern Ireland on the fringes of these summit meetings, which might not have otherwise occurred. We should all be concerned about the impact a possible Brexit will have on Northern Ireland. The partition of our island by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, unfortunately made the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland very real until recently. It was a border that for decades was militarised with army checkpoints. Thankfully, with peace in Northern Ireland, comma these checkpoints have been eliminated, we hope never to see them return. Random customs inspections, a feature of the border until the Single European Act of 1987 were also, we thought, consigned to history. If Britain leaves the EU, migration movements and a more uncertain security situation in Europe may open the possibility of border controls between here and Northern Ireland.

400,000 Irish-born people reside in the UK while 230,000 British-born people are resident in Ireland.

The UK and Ireland share a common language, common law as well as close political, social, familial and economic ties underpinned by our mutual membership of the EU. Brexit could undermine these painstakingly achieved developments.

It is the citizens of the UK that will decide whether to stay or leave the EU However each of us has a voice; we can and should talk with our families, relations and friends in the UK about the implications of Brexit, setting out the very daunting implications for both Ireland and Britain. These conversations on Brexit are in our national interest; we need to press our case urgently.