Tuesday 27 September 2016

Special Report: Why 'Brexit' really matters to the 500,000 Irish living in Britain

Joe O'Shea

Published 10/06/2016 | 14:11

Inset: Owner of Six-Yard Box Seb O'Driscoll, Inset right: Restaurateur Robin Gill and his wife Sarah
Inset: Owner of Six-Yard Box Seb O'Driscoll, Inset right: Restaurateur Robin Gill and his wife Sarah

IRISH people 'have a good thing going' in London and are 'better off in a connected world', according to a Dubliner who was recently voted Chef of The Year and runs four of the hottest restaurants in the British capital.

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Chef Robin Gill and his wife Sarah – who works with him in their restaurants - believe a 'Leave' vote in Brexit could seriously affect their business.

“It looks like the economy could take a big hit if the vote is for leave. But more importantly for us, we employ over 60 people and a lot of them are from all over the EU,” Robin told Independent.ie.

“What happens if Britain votes to leave? Will they need work visas? Will they have to go home? London needs talented people to come here from all over the world, I really hope the vote is for staying in.

"We've lost really good people with the visa situation in Australia and Canada. I can't imagine what it would do to our business," he continued.

"We’re doing well, the economy is doing well, we’re better off in a connected, globalised world. We’re voting Remain”.

Brexit is the biggest political decision to face the UK in four decades – should they stay or should they go?

Upwards of half a million Irish citizens could have a big say on the referendum – on whether Britain should remain in the European Union – on June 23rd.

The Irish living in the UK are in a virtually unique position – they are the second biggest migrant group, standing at around 500,000 and only outnumbered by the 800,000 Poles.

And, due to the historical quirk which sees us still counted amongst former commonwealth or Empire dominions, only the Irish, Cypriots and Maltese get to vote in the referendum.

Irish economists, businessmen and politicians have already had their say, with Enda Kenny causing a bit of a stir when he arrived in London for a Mayo GAA game recently and took the chance to remind the Irish in the UK to vote 'Remain'.

Bob Geldof and Michael O’Leary of Ryanair have also been loud pro-EU voices.

The Irish in London today are different from their parents and grandparents generation, those who came in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, often with low skills and low expectations.

The New London Irish are typically young, very well-educated and making the most of the city’s booming, globalised economy.

For Irish entrepreneurs like Seb O’Driscoll, a 35-year-old Corkman who runs The Six Yard Box, a hip, pop-up sports bar in Elephant & Castle, there’s no doubt how most Irish will vote.

“The Irish are everywhere in London, and most love it for being a multi-cultural city with huge diversity and a real international feel,” says Seb.

“The sense I get, from guys coming into the bar here, from my friends and the Irish you meet, they’ll all be voting remain. We don’t have a negative view of the EU in the way a lot of Brits do. And we don’t know what’s going to the happen to the economy if we leave”.

UK Chef of The Year Robin reiterated Seb's comments and said the opportunities for Irish in London are endless.

"I've tried to leave eight or nine times and then another opportunity comes across. From that point, it's just uncontrollable," he said.

Brexit: The issues Ireland faces if Britain leaves the EU

If Brexit is the result of the referendum, there will be many unknowns for Ireland both economic and geopolitical.

One of the big issues for Ireland will be how the Republic and North of the country interact with the re-establishment of borders a possibility that has already been highlighted by British chancellor George Osborne.

Not since the long-fought for peace process has this issue arisen and we don’t know what the outcome would be.

From an economic perspective, while Ireland’s dependence on the UK as a trade partner has waned in the most recent past, depending on what kind of trade deal Britain would establish with the EU then that could have repercussions here.

Currently the UK, like other member states, has access to 500m people through the single market.

However, the remain side argues that there's no guarantees that any kind of free trade agreement between the UK and the EU would be an option if Brexit were the outcome.

One of the upsides of a Brexit, of course, would be a likely influx of foreign direct investment with our low 12.5pc corporation tax rate already attractive for multinationals.

On the flip side, the spotlight is on Ireland’s tax treatment of many of these firms and if, for example, Donald Trump was elected US president he has already warned that countries like Ireland are outsmarting  the US and taking jobs by attracting American firms here and he has vowed to stop this.

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