Ireland Needs to Consider Leaving EU

Irexit is becoming more of a mainstream idea in Ireland. UK think-tank Policy Exchange has this morning published a paper by Ray Bassett, an experienced Irish diplomat who retired as an ambassador last year. The Irish Diplomatic Service has for decades been in awe of and subservient to the EU. Now the reality of Brexit is making even some diplomats question this fundamental tenet of Irish foreign policy in the face of increased hostility from the European Commission. The financial crisis of 2008 confirmed that a small country on the Western periphery of Europe will never be a priority of the European Central Bank. Membership of the Eurozone has cost Ireland dearly for little benefit, most of Ireland’s external trade is in sterling and dollars…

Bassett warns that whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, “there will be a price to pay. For Ireland, there is really no upside to Brexit,” he says. “The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?”

The paper argues sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is untenable. The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the EU as an institution. This is prioritised in their European Council approved guidelines. However the type of deal that Ireland’s interests requires, including free trade with the UK, is directly in contradiction with the EU negotiators’ mandate that anything relating to Ireland and her border which emerges from the Brexit negotiations must “maintain the integrity the Union’s Legal Order” – with no exceptions to the customs union. Bassett argues therefore that Ireland must give serious consideration to Irexit.

Irish politicians are by nature transactional, for decades Ireland was a net beneficiary of EU largesse, she is now a new contributor, a situation which will worsen after Brexit takes billions out of the EU budget. It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – Ireland used to be a regular winner, now Eastern Europe has joined, they rarely win.

The Irish political establishment is extremely wary of Irexit and will want to see signs that Britain has first made a success of Brexit. Once the UK concludes a free-trade deal with the US the pressure on Ireland – which would be geographically in the middle of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area yet not a member – will become immense. The illogical situation of being in a currency and trading bloc when most of your trade is not in the bloc or the currency will make Irexit inevitable… 




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