JOE GILL: The dream of a clean exit begins to sour for Brexiteers

James Chapman is a name that may not be obvious to you but his intervention in the Brexit debate is a profoundly important one.

Chapman was formerly the political editor of the Daily Mail, which was at the centre of the Brexit campaign. Of far more importance, however, is the fact that Chapman was chief of staff for David Davis, the UK minister for Brexit, up until about 12 weeks ago.

Chapman said last week that Brexit was the biggest catastrophe for the UK since the Second World War.

He is calling for a full reversal of the decision and is suggesting a second referendum may be needed in 2019 to stop it.

This is a remarkable insight from someone at the heart of the Brexit process. Chapman cannot be dismissed as some ideologue or europhile who does not have the UK’s interests at heart.

Rather, he is outlining a view that has formed as the enormity of what Brexit means is starting to surface.

Last week we saw a slew of economic reports and data suggesting the British economy is beginning to roll over.

Growth is slowing, exports are struggling despite a weak pound, the government deficit is widening and inward investment flows are contracting.

All of this is a logical consequence of a decision to sever relationships with a marketplace that helped drive the entire UK economy forward over the past 30 years. One example illustrates well the incredible risks that the UK is taking with its people and economy through Brexit.

Airbus, the European commercial aircraft manufacturer, is headquartered in Paris and is effectively a Franco-German company. It shares with Boeing the leadership of aircraft production worldwide.

Airbus has two key factories in the UK.

One employs 4,000 people near Bristol and specialises in systems and structures of aircraft. The other, in Broughton, employs 6,000. That plant makes all of the wings for the entire Airbus portfolio and has a rich heritage. The Comet and Mosquito aircraft, for example, were produced there.

These plants form a crucial cog in the Airbus production process which exists across Europe. Wings made in Wales are moved to Toulouse in France for final assembly. This highly sophisticated process requires seamless movement of people, services, and products across EU borders.

Brexit creates headaches around all that. The movement of highly skilled engineers between Airbus plants is one matter. Sensitive data transfer is another. The physical shipment of parts and final products is yet another. Each of these will be messed up by Brexit and in so doing interfere with the efficiency of the Airbus manufacturing process.

This example is replicated over many industries; including car production, food, engineering and other important parts of the UK economy. Whether or not existing factories in the UK survive this Brexit nonsense is open to debate.

What is crystal clear, however, is that the next phase of investments by giant manufacturing companies like Airbus will struggle to reach the UK if they impede efficiency. Those investments will, instead, see parts of the EU, where uninterrupted movement of people, services, products, and data is hassle-free, as appealing.

If all of this was happening in a place like Belarus, it would be just a spectator sport for Ireland. Yet it is profoundly important that Ireland pulls like a dog on Brexit. The UK is our closest neighbour, our economies are intertwined unlike any other country trading with the UK, and we have replaced centuries of conflict with peace.

Getting stuck into a few battles on the diplomatic front will be a small price to pay if we can help change the Brexit momentum. Chapman’s comments are very welcome in that regard.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal

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