Divided we fall – Anglo-Irish ties are far too close for any discomfort
Published 08/04/2014 | 02:30
HISTORICALLY, there has obviously been more that divides Britain and Ireland politically, than unites.
But a history characterised by the oppression and subjugation of one country over its smaller neighbour has evolved into a shared future of co-operation and mutual respect on a range of political issues.
Both administrations will argue we have never been closer.
And that has had an economic benefit on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Anglo Irish relations in the 21st Century are characterised by an ever-deepening business and economic relationship.
It's not always appreciated just how large a role this country plays in British commercial life.
The Irish have formed more businesses in the UK than any other foreign nationality. Some 50,000 directors of British firms were born in Ireland.
And some of the UK's leading figures in the business and economic world have links to Ireland. Chancellor George Osborne has his roots in the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, while Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, holds an Irish passport.
Conversely, British high street stores have invested heavily in Ireland. The presence here of retail giants like Marks & Spencer, Boots and Tesco is evidence of that.
In the 2011 census, more than 530,000 people in England and Wales identified themselves as Irish, with more than 400,000 of them being born in the Republic. There are 50,000 Irish-born directors of British companies and 56,000 companies in the UK were formed by Irish entrepreneurs.
Trade figures also point to a deep and vital relationship.
A quarter of exports from Northern Ireland are to the Republic. The UK exports more to Ireland than it does to China, India and Brazil combined.
We buy more British food and non-alcoholic drinks than any other country, and last year, the British bought half of our total exports of beef.
The number of Irish start-up companies targeting the UK has doubled over the last four years. Irish engineering companies increased the value of their exports into the UK to nearly half a billion euro last year.
But it's not just in trade or business. Britain also stepped in with a £3.2bn (€3.8bn) bilateral loan in 2010 in addition to the bailout from the EU and IMF, as British banks had strong links to those in Ireland.
It simply wasn't in Britain's interests to have Ireland suffer.
Almost 200,000 people in Ireland are employed as a result of our exports to the UK, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
UK jobs resulting from exports to Ireland are estimated at 208,000.
The relationship between the two countries is crucial. The figures speak for themselves.