Brexit and its implications have many of us confused and a bit if we are honest, bewildered. So with time ticking on towards 11 pm UK time on Friday 29 March 2019, when the UK will leave the EU we asked journalist Ger Leddin to take a look at where we stand now and how Brexit might affect the South of Ireland.
One thing I have noticed about Brexit is that nobody else seems to know what the hell is going on and that includes the so-called experts and politicians who earn big bucks to understand things like this and are supposed to be advising us and that it in self is very worrying.
For centuries Ireland and the UK have had a special relationship — England was our biggest trading partner and we shared major cultural, commercial and even familial ties. Some people may believe that these ties were a bit too close at times but that’s in the past and whether we like it or not these ties did and still do exist; as someone once put it ‘if England catches a cold, Ireland sneezes.’
Let’s take a look at five ways the Republic of Ireland may be affected after a deal or no-deal Brexit.
1. The Agriculture and Food Industry will suffer worst of all
Ninety per cent of Ireland’s agri-food exports is exported to Britain. According to Food Drink Ireland, there has already been 6,000 Irish jobs loss in this sector since the Brexit vote in June 2016 and the subsequent fall in the value of sterling. The IBEC group who represent the sector have estimated that €570 millions worth of exports has been lost to the Irish economy since the vote, and all this only since the referendum.
A no-deal or unfavourable Brexit will have a devastating effect on this industry which compared to other sectors of the Irish economy is particularly exposed. Tariffs, if introduced along with certification issues, border checks, administration costs and increased veterinary and health certification will bring about a negative trading situation that many small to medium-sized exporters will simply be unable to survive.
Yes the Irish Government are doing their bit to lessen the impact of Brexit on this industry but, and let’s be honest here, will the four-hundred million Euros (of which three-hundred million will be classed as loans and will need to be paid back) do much to soften the blow to an industry which exports more than five-billion euro worth of goods annually to the UK?
2. The Cost of Living will increase
Ireland imports almost half of our food imports from the UK, around 4.8 billion euros worth per year in the event of a worst-case scenario the introduction of WTO tariffs and other related costs, the cost of living in Ireland will increase and it will affect the lowest income families the hardest.
The ESRI published a report in March of this year which predicts a rise in the average weekly shopping basket of a low-income family of 3.1% this could mean that an extra €1,360 will need to be spent just on groceries per year.
3. The Border
I’m not even going to touch on the political, social or civil ramifications that the reintroduction of a hard border between the north and south of Ireland could bring about. But the purely practical implications are immense.
It is estimated that 30,000 people cross the border every day a startling fact is that 9,336 people live in the republic but work or study in the North. It is also estimated that 6,000 Heavy-Goods-Vehicles per day also cross. The disruption caused by border and customs controls on these people would be horrendous.
The proposal for a frictionless border have been mooted by the London Government and the use of technological monitoring involving GPS, drones and preclearance are among some of the ideas being put forward but this is going to cause disruption and chaos to an ease of travel which people have taken for granted since the Good Friday Agreement.
4. Air Travel and the Land Bridge
European Council president Donald Tusk has said that the European Union will use upcoming trade talks with the UK to seek to avoid the “particularly absurd” prospect of flights between the two blocs being disrupted following Brexit. But as we all know in politics the absurd sometimes does happen.
Simply put, as it stands Britain as a member of the EU is subject to and avails of all the regulatory checks and agreements of the EU and the benefits that accrue from these, simple things like air-traffic procedures, aeroplane certification and the Open Skies policies. However if these are not successfully negotiated after Brexit if you’ll pardon the pun, things will be a bit up in the air. Any failure to swiftly negotiate alternative agreements will have a strong negative effect on the thousands of people who fly between Ireland and the UK each day.
With regard to the “Land-Bridge” where Irish exporters use the UK to access the ferry routes from Britain to mainland Europe, the quickest route for many of our time-sensitive exports. As it stands with the prospect of a non-common customs agreement, Irish hauliers will need to pass through four sets of customs controls to access Europe, you see we are obviously an island nation and the ease of using the UK as a convenient stepping stone will simply not exist; this, of course, will have an immediate and detrimental effect on this island.
5. Another Recession?
A recent Red C survey shows that more than 90% of Irish voters want Ireland to remain in the EU. Not surprising as we have done well out of the EU — between 1973 and 2015, Ireland received over €74.3 billion from the EU. During the same time, it contributed approximately €32 billion to the EU budget.
But Ireland is just coming out of a very serious recession and the implications of Brexit could very well put us slap-bang into another one; it simply couldn’t have come at a worse time. Initially, when Britain was refused entry to the then EEC we immediately withdrew our application to join. Eventually, when Britain did become a member we also joined on the very same day. Our economies are and always have been linked, maybe less so now but we are still joined at the hip to the British economy, for better or worse.
Nothing breeds financial insecurity and instability than uncertainty and as it stands at the moment nothing is certain except the uncertainty.
So that’s it, Ireland is in a very unique situation with regard to Brexit the bigger member nations like France and Germany won’t even notice Britain has gone, and that probably is influencing their negotiation tactics but one thing is for sure this little rock out in the Atlantic definitely will.