Brexit report: Stakes are high for Ireland

THERE are still some supreme optimists who bask in the notion that the UK’s departure from the EU will enrich this country rather than damage it.

Certainly, there is reason to expect that some multinational businesses and financial institutions may choose to relocate here from Britain post Brexit, but there are grave dangers, too.

Yesterday’s publication of figures showing the extent of Ireland’s social and economic engagement with the UK will act as a reality check for those who think Nirvana is around the corner.

The CSO is to be congratulated for its hard graft in compiling real figures that illustrate so starkly and soberly Ireland’s exposure to Brexit. Their work will undoubtedly be very useful to businesses, politicians, economists, and policy makers in working out a mature response to Brexit.

It will also be useful to policy makers on the other side of the Irish Sea as it reveals equally the importance of Ireland — despite its small size — to the British economy.

We import far more from the UK than we export and, although Britain no longer represents the bulk of Irish exports, it remains, nonetheless, a hugely important market for us. The data shows that tourism is Ireland’s most exposed industry, with 41% of visitors annually coming from the UK.

The report, entitled Brexit: Ireland and the UK in Numbers, also reveals that as of 2011 there were 112,259 UK nationals living in the Republic.

Along with British expats living in Spain, Portugal, and other parts of the EU, they face an uncertain future if, as seems likely, it will be a hard rather than a soft Brexit.

A debate last night in the House of Commons indicated that the British prime minister, Theresa May, is seeking a consensus among MPs of all parties on her government’s plans for Brexit.

At the same time, she is still insisting that she has the right to exercise a royal prerogative which does not require a vote in parliament to trigger Brexit negotiations.

Last night’s Commons vote on whether the Government should trigger Article 50 by March 31 next was carried overwhelmingly. It was indicative of the view of the vast majority of MPs that the referendum must be respected.

Although it was a non-binding vote, it is the clearest indication yet that there will be no rollback from Brexit and that Britain will press ahead with leaving the EU.

Ms May has one more hurdle to overcome, though. On Monday, 11 Supreme Court judges began hearing a government appeal to allow Ms May the power to trigger Article 50 without the approval of parliament.

If the decision goes against her, that would give Europhile MPs an opportunity to block Brexit by voting against the Government.

The battle over Brexit is being played out on opposite sides of Parliament Square in London — in the Supreme Court and in Parliament itself.

The stakes are as high for Ireland as they are for the UK.


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