Sunday 4 December 2016

10 things we know about Brexit (that we didn't a month ago)

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

Here are the 10 things we now know about Brexit... that we didn't know a month ago.

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1 Bookies and money markets also get things horribly wrong

Opinion polls were discredited in Britain during the 2015 general election. They predicted a hung parliament, but David Cameron's Conservatives won an overall majority.

Polls right up to June 23 unconvincingly suggested a narrow win for Remain.

But Remain advocates took more confidence from the bookies, which were offering almost 3/1 for Leave and odds-on for Remain. The money market dealers also predicted a Remain win.

2 Trade

Any school pupil with half an ear open in geography class could tell you Britain is Ireland's biggest export market. The surprising fact that has emerged is how important the reverse relationship is.

In fact, Britain sells more to Ireland than its combined exports to China, India, Brazil and Russia. Both countries want to ensure that there are no tariffs or levies. But Ireland is legally prevented from concluding one-to-one deals with Britain, which must deal with the rest of the EU.

3 Theresa May

In Ireland, she was only a vague name in the news. Mr Cameron, who was re-elected in 2015, looked set to be PM for years. We're going to learn a lot more about hyper-cautious Ms May, a lukewarm Remain supporter, who came through tough leadership jousts to win.

4 Article 50

The EU was like the Hotel California - no one could ever leave. Then Article 50 of the EU Treaty was enacted, providing for a two-year exit time frame.

Britain alone can decide when to trigger this process. Once it has done so, this gives big power to the member states, who must agree the terms of Brexit by 'super qualified majority' - 72pc of the remaining member countries, representing 65pc of the EU population.

5 A dis-United Kingdom?

The Brexit result was barely an hour old when there were calls for another independence referendum in Scotland, where six out of 10 voted Remain. There have also been calls for a border poll in the North, where 56pc backed Remain.

In England, the north and midlands carried a Leave vote, which also won in Wales.

We may be looking at a major realignment of relations in these islands, complicating what Ireland is trying to achieve. But London keeps stressing that it was a "UK referendum" and now requires a "UK deal".

6 Ireland's post-Brexit aims

These are easier to state than to achieve. Dublin wants to help keep Britain in the single market. That is hard to do because Britain is refusing to agree continued free movement of EU citizens - which is a fundamental principle for the others.

Ireland also wants to keep the Common Travel Area, which has been in force since the 1920s. We need to ensure no return of customs or identity controls on the 300-mile border between Dundalk and Derry.

The border risks becoming a de facto EU-UK frontier. A bilateral arrangement between Dublin and London is not possible.

7 Tensions in the North

Arlene Foster took over as Northern Ireland's First Minister last January. It was assumed that tensions between herself and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness would be defused over a relatively short time.

Then the Brexit result landed as something very unhelpful from the outside. DUP leader Ms Foster was a Leave supporter, who now insists that the North, which voted 56pc to Remain, must abide by "a UK result".

Mr McGuinness insists that the North cannot be further divided from the Republic by exiting the EU.

8 Power struggles in Brussels

Back in 2009, when Article 50 came into force, a new post of President of the European Council was created. It was styled as the permanent chairperson of the EU leaders' summit.

But now the person holding that office, Donald Tusk of Poland, has emerged as a potential lead figure in Brexit proceedings.

This has dismayed Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues in the policy-guiding Commission, who believe it is their job.

9 Everyday life

The Taoiseach has revealed that there are 500 EU-funded education partnerships between Irish and British colleges. Mr Kenny has said that already the EU Commission has been warning about funding when Brexit kicks in.

People availing of their EU right to medical treatment in another member state may have to travel further to countries where the language and culture are rather different. Post-Brexit, the EU scheme will not apply in the UK.

10 Holiday homes

The Brexit impact on the value of Irish holiday homes on the Mediterranean is also uncertain.

Pensioners are by far the biggest group among the 1.3 million UK citizens in other EU states. While nothing changes for at least two years, UK overseas pensioners are fretful about health entitlements and standards of living.

If they sell up in large numbers, many Irish holiday home owners could see the prices of their properties plummet.

The number of UK buyers in the Irish property market has also been significant in recent years, but with the Sterling plunging, this will surely change.

Irish Independent

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