Ireland hoping to attract firms moving out of UK, ambassador tells MPs

The Republic of Ireland hopes to attract firms moving out of the UK to avoid the impact of Brexit, the Irish ambassador to the UK has told MPs.

Daniel Mulhall said Brexit poses "very real challenges" for Ireland but the country is adopting a pragmatic approach and wants to benefit from "any upsides" from business moving away from the UK.

The told the Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that Dublin has concerns about the impact of Brexit on trade, the border and the common travel area but is confident a deal could be struck to address those issues and preserve the close links between the two countries.

"We naturally seek to avail of any upsides from this situation, such as the possibility of attracting some of the economic activity that may need to find a post-Brexit location within the European Union," Mr Mulhall said.

"This is a pragmatic response on the part of the Irish government to managing the downsides of Brexit and responding to the reality that some companies will feel a need to move.

"For those who do plan to move, we believe that Ireland is the best place for them to operate for we can provide an ideal setting with our highly educated, English-speaking population, a location within the EU single market, and an environment proven to be conducive to investment."

Mr Mulhall said Ireland would be more affected by Brexit than any other EU member states.

"I believe it is widely recognised that Ireland will be uniquely affected by the UK's exit from the EU. This is because of the special circumstances that apply to us, the fact is that we have the only land border with the UK.

"What's more, Brexit will bring to an end a very productive Irish-UK relationship as EU partners, one that has served us well for 44 years. This is regrettable from our point of view."

Mr Mulhall said neither Taoiseach Enda Kenny nor British Prime Minister Theresa May wanted a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but acknowledged that "arrangements with regard to customs will be complicated to tie down".

Mrs May has ruled out remaining a member of the single market and will seek a new customs arrangement rather than stay in the customs union.

Mr Mulhall stressed it is "essential that Brexit does not affect the Good Friday Agreement, and that the people of Northern Ireland can have confidence that this will be the case".

The ambassador told MPs that the IDA had received 100 official inquiries "from companies looking to potentially invest in Ireland post-Brexit".

Mr Mulhall also highlighted the increase in the number of requests for Irish passports since Brexit.

"The number of passports we issued last year in Britain went up by 40% and the number of foreign birth registrations - which is applications for citizenship through a grandparent - went up from 600 to more than 5,000, so there is a lot of this happening," he said.

In Northern Ireland the number of passports issued rose by 20% last year, but Mr Mulhall said that was probably because a higher proportion of people there had already taken advantage of their entitlement to Irish citizenship.

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