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Irexit January 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’d have a couple of quibbles with the thrust of Noel Whelan’s piece here in the Irish Times where he argues that an Irish exit of the EU isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility and should be one of the options explored by the state. It’s not that he’s incorrect that circumstances might lead us to that pass. But he says the following:

In an interesting opinion piece in the Sunday Business Post last weekend, the former Department of Foreign Affairs official Ray Bassett, whose perspective on Europe is obviously different from Farage’s, also raised the possibility that Brexit might give rise to the possibility of Ireland leaving the EU. Indeed, Bassett went further and argued that drawing attention to the risk of Ireland leaving should be part of our negotiating strategy in order to counter the “punish the Brits” elements in Brussels. His central point was that we should be emphasising the risk of “Irexit” as a means of concentrating minds in the EU about how damaging a hard Brexit could be for Ireland.

Of course one could argue that that is essentially the RoI threatening to punish the EU. Fair enough some might say, but let’s be clear about the dynamics. Actually Bassett didn’t quite, if one reads his text, come out in favour of an Irexit seeing it as pretty much a last gasp option. But the way it was spun both by the SBP in its headlines and here by Whelan is interesting.

But there’s a broader point, and this I think is more important again. Whelan argues:

This week saw a knee-jerk reaction even to the slightest suggestion that Ireland’s future in Europe might be in any doubt. In an extended interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio on Wednesday, the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that if Brexit proved a success for Britain, then Ireland would also re-examine its relationship with Europe. He didn’t say that Ireland would leave but that Irish public opinion would reconsider its position, his analysis being contingent on a successful economic outcome for Britain from Brexit.

…But just because it came out of the mouth of Nigel Farage doesn’t mean his opinion couldn’t come true, albeit not for the reasons he suggests. All the polling suggests that the Irish are currently well-disposed to continued membership of the EU, but that could change as Brexit alters our relationships.

But although he mentions the basic fact that ‘Six months later, there is still a lack of clarity about what form Brexit will take, and even what kind of Brexit Britain wants.’ he doesn’t quite get to grips with the question as to whose fault is that? It’s hardly the EU’s. It’s certainly not the fault of this state.

It is entirely the fault of a British government whose constant refrain of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is a rather pathetic derogation of responsibility. Yet, and I’ve noticed this dynamic with those such as Bassett, rather than pointing to this inconvenient truth (one could also add that it is bizarre to see Farage being given such prominence in this matter. Granted he’s still an MEP but who precisely does he represent other than himself at this point?).

Whelan is concerned, quoting a report for the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce – that:

“A hard Brexit has the potential to inflict serious collateral damage on Ireland and may give rise to anti-EU sentiment,” they cautioned.
They also warned that those within the EU who wanted to impose very harsh terms on Britain, to discourage other member states, needed to “actively consider whether this will build momentum towards an ‘Irexit’, further undermining European cohesion”.

But again, whose fault is this? What state is pushing for a ‘hard’ Brexit, i.e. one that sets itself outside the EU and the EEA/EFTA and potentially the customs union and… well, who knows where this ends?

This seeming aversion to saying, actually that this is a problem both of Britain’s making and exacerbated by a British government that appears all too like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, unsure whether to run or stay rooted to the spot, is curious. Again, an Irish exit is possible, though unlikely. But it’s notable how coy Whelan and Bassett are about the upside of any such decision. What precisely are the benefits and how do they stack up against the negatives?


1. FergusD - January 11, 2017

On the other hand maybe UK and other banks might move some operations to Dublin before or after Brexit. So the RoI would possibly gain. At least that is how the govt etc would see it, as a gain, rather than a danger.

Isn’t the IFSC touting for business from over the water?


sonofstan - January 11, 2017

The Haut de France region, centred on Lille, are advertising on the tube for business. The IFSC will have plenty of competition.


2. bjg - January 11, 2017

Allocating blame is not going to solve any practical problems. And it may not be a matter of finding benefits in Irexit but rather of coping with the dog’s brexit. Suppose, for example, that hard Brexit means tariffs on goods entering the UK from the EU or vice versa. How much of Ireland’s trade with the rest of the EU passes through British ports? Even if there are no tariffs, but only paperwork, imagine the delays. All the RORO ferry terminals, on both sides of the Irish Sea, might have to be rebuilt, for both Ireland-GB and Ireland-continent trade, and new sea routes to the continent might have to be opened up. Transit through GB is a problem for Ireland that does not apply to any other EU state. I don’t know its extent, or whether the problem would ever be large enough to make Irexit attractive, but practical issues, rather than identity politics, might drive the decision. bjg


WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2017

Absolutely agree allocating blame won’t solve problems but the point still stands, they and Tom McGurk are not actually offering any solutions or even offering much in the way of your own concise and useful appraisal of potential problems – rather it’s all broad brush strokes stuff devoid of much analysis. Tbh I think the situation requires much more in depth thinking particularly from those arguing we should turn our backs on the known quantity of the EU and follow the UK to a position it itself cannot seem to determine.


bjg - January 11, 2017

Agreed. It would also be nice if there were some in-depth thinking from the far side of the Irish Sea, as well as some awareness of the practicalities. bjg


WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2017

I just don’t think they get it, not even slightly. This state isn’t even a footnote in their thinking.


3. CL - January 11, 2017

Mr Bruton thinks a hard Brexit, looking more likely now, would have repercussions for the nationalist community in the North. European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt recently warned of a return to violence in the North because of Brexit.

Mr Bruton said such talk was wrong but a hard Brexit with changes may hurt nationalists. “I don’t think we should talk about the possibility of violence because that can be a dangerous thing.

“The harder the Brexit the greater the sense of isolation of the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland,” he said.


WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2017

I guess better late than never on the part of JB in regard to isolation of Northern nationalists but telling he wasn’t quite so forthright with such language back in the 80s or indeed 90s


4. RosencrantzisDead - January 11, 2017

Is this a bit of Eurosceptic kite-flying by Fianna Fáil via their in-house pundit Whelan?

When I think back on it, it would fit into their preferred narrative of bad fiscal decisions being foisted on us by Europe (hence lumping blame on Trigger during the inquiry). The next logical step might be a diet Farage where they denounce an overbearing Brussels. This would be especially timely with the Common Corporate Tax reform coming up and the Apple decision.

Liked by 1 person

5. dublinstreams - January 11, 2017

would the EU care if Ireland left? or would they prefer to have some influence on tax system the corporations take advantage of (which we’re in the EU) even as we object to the CCCTB https://brianhayesdublin.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/7-national-parliaments-object-to-ccctb-proposal-hayes/


6. DOCR - January 11, 2017

Excellent piece.

Bassett and Whelan are trying to make a silk purse of brave outspoken truth out of the sow’s ear of the bleedin’ obvious, the latter to fill an easy Friday column, the former perhaps wistful for former (merited) relevance from the wilderness of retirement.

It is just about conceivable that the terms of a UK exit might make an exit by us as an option deserving consideration. Though it is unlikely and both Bassett and Whelan know that. For any government to say publicly NOW that this was among the possibilities that might come on to its radar would achieve nothing positive for it to set against the avalanche of negative fallout on many fronts.

I suspect that it is probably true also that the government is not mentioning this possibility even privately in Brussels or European capitals as an option it has not entirely forsworn. But, I am sure it is gently reminding people that any UK exit package may well have to go to referendum here and that’s gauntlet enough.


6to5against - January 11, 2017

Will a deal for Brexit have to go to referendum here? I wouldn’t have thought so. Other deals, with Norway etc. never did….


Michael Carley - January 11, 2017

If a deal affected the GFA or such, it might.


sonofstan - January 11, 2017

If the UK breaches the terms of the GFA by, or in the course of leaving the EU, could we take them to the ICJ?


7. GW - January 11, 2017

Let’s first see if and when May triggers article 50. Then in about December of this year we’ll have some idea of the likely outcome, given other priorities in Europe. Brexit is really is not a number one issue outside the western European islands right now.

Before that it seems to me a bit of a waste of time to speculate.

Which is not to say that contingency planning should not be taking place now, or that hard thinking and serious behind the scenes talking about the North shouldn’t be happening now.

The point about transport is a good one. Perhaps the Roscoff and Cherbourg ferries are going to become more important.


8. An Sionnach Fionn - January 11, 2017

On the other hand, it is surely no coincidence that a number of those flying Irexit kites are the same ones who were previously flying British Commonwealth kites? I get the impression, from some at least, that they wish us to hurriedly leave one type of union in order to gradually “return” to a very different type of one…


WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2017

Possible with some, definitely.


EWI - January 11, 2017

Yes, for a certain small but vocal minority all paths lead to London. How the likes of Bruton and Hogan (both recipients of EU money?) are being put under pressure at this point in time would make for fascinating reading.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2017

Yes, would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in some of those conversations. Though in truth perhaps pennies are dropping as regards our situation?


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