The ramifications of a British exit – ‘Brexit’ – from the European Union would carry shockwaves far beyond the United Kingdom. Among the many countries monitoring the situation is the U.K.’s closest neighbor, Ireland.
On the eve of his releasing a letter to the EU Council President Donald Tusk, the British Prime Minister David Cameron will put forward proposals for institutional reform in a bid to maintain the U.K.’s interests within the EU. As France and Germany have both indicated that they would look favorably on proposals that would enable Britain to remain as a partner within the union, the interconnectedness of the British and Irish economies was foremost in the mind of Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny today.
Addressing the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in London today, Mr. Kenny said “But I think it is right – as your friend, closest neighbor and the only EU partner with whom Britain shares a land border – to share our perspective with you. The Irish Government’s strong view, backed up by independent economic research published last week, is that a Brexit is not in Ireland’s economic interest,”
Indeed, research indicates that Ireland exports 16% of manufactured goods to Britain, along with 19% of its services. Moreover, 40% of Ireland’s food and drink exports head to Britain. It is not just one way traffic, though. Ireland imports 34% of its goods from Britain and some 18% of its services. However, a potential “Brexit” would be estimated to reduce Irish/U.K. trade by a fifth, according to a report published last week by the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland (ESRI).
Mr. Kenny stated that he shared Mr. Cameron’s views on EU trade liberalisation, while also adding that he concurred with the Prime Minister’s view that the EU should seek out more international trade agreements beyond its supranational borders.
While reiterating his country’s commitment to the EU, the Taoiseach also alluded to another major concern resulting from a ‘Brexit’. Since The Good Friday Agreement was successfully brokered between the U.K and Ireland in 1998, Mr. Kenny praised the EU’s unsung role in maintaining peace and helping rebuild the lesser developed regions of Northern Ireland. The EU had, the Taoiseach observed, “provided almost €2.4 billion in funding over the period 2007 to 2013 to help Northern Ireland overcome the challenges of a peripheral region that has emerged from conflict.”
The continuation of that process, and the continued harmonization of relations between Britain and Ireland, was best facilitated by combined EU membership said Mr. Kenny:
“Common membership of the EU project is part of the glue holding that transition process together… So I have no doubt that continued British membership of the European Union is good for Ireland and for relationships on these islands.”