Saturday 25 February 2017

Brexit to weaken Ireland's EU standing

Report issues stark warning of challenges that lie ahead

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The report states the UK has been an important ally and allowed Ireland a stronger hand than could otherwise be expected in EU negotiations Picture: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
The report states the UK has been an important ally and allowed Ireland a stronger hand than could otherwise be expected in EU negotiations Picture: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Brexit will weaken Ireland's place in the European Union and damage the Government's pursuit of our objectives as a member state, a report has found.

The National Risk Assessment (NRA) 2016 has listed Britain's departure from the EU as the number one threat to Ireland, impacting on the economy, social infrastructure and our place on the international stage.

It warns the establishment of a new working relationship between the UK and EU may take more than the two years currently allowed for the Brexit negotiations.

While Brexit is the number one threat to Ireland's prosperity this year, the assessment also outlines risks relating to terrorism, weak global economic growth, infrastructural deficits and expenditure pressures.

However, it says that Brexit "accentuates" the risks associated with at least half of the normal challenges facing the Government.

In particular the report, which is compiled annually, states the UK has been an important ally and allowed Ireland a stronger hand than could otherwise be expected in EU negotiations.

"A British withdrawal would also change the political complexion of the EU as the UK is often associated with a northern economically liberal bloc of countries (as is Ireland).

"Without the UK, the relative voting weight of this bloc would decline raising the possibility that the EU would become less economically liberal and open," the report says.

And in a stark assessment, the NRA 2016 study said: "The manifestation of Brexit may pose a more fundamental threat to the stability of the EU since it appears to give licence to politicians from some other member-states who question the raison d'etre of the EU and advocate withdrawal."

Concern has also been raised that the UK may adopt less rigorous environmental stands "which could put industries in Ireland at a competitive disadvantage".

The authors of the report say that as the future EU-UK relationship is still unknown, it is impossible to determine the outcome of Brexit and how it might affect policy here.

It highlights trade as an area where Ireland is particularly vulnerable. More than €1bn worth of goods and services are traded between the two countries every week.

"Some sectors, such as food and drink, are heavily reliant on the UK market with over 40pc of goods being exported there," it said.

Noting that Brexit could affect trade flows "in a number of ways", the report warns about the dangers of a depreciation of sterling and the prospects of tariffs on goods in a post-Brexit environment.

"There is a need to distinguish between short and long-term effects as well as best case scenarios, whereby there is a free-trade agreement between the EU and UK, and worst-case, where there is no such agreement raising the possibility of considerable tariffs," the NRA says.

A further risk associated with Brexit is employment and the status enjoyed by Irish citizens resident in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has agreed to bid for the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking. As revealed by the Irish Independent, Health Minister Simon Harris and Finance Minister Michael Noonan will begin diplomatic efforts to lure the bodies here once they relocate from London as a result of Brexit.

Irish Independent

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