Tuesday 27 September 2016

Report warns of Brexit implications for north-south co-operation

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 17/06/2016 | 08:35

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron sips from an
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron sips from an "I'm In" mug as he meets television presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May during a visit to W Chump & Sons Ltd TV studio in west London. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Brexit could have serious political and economic implications for Ireland, Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, according to a new report.

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The disruption of trade links, re-introduction of customs controls and loss of millions of pounds in aid funding would impact the economy and affect security, it has been claimed.

British Influence, which published the report, said: "These are issues that have only been considered on the periphery of the referendum debate until very recently and yet represent some of the most serious, considering the potential effects Brexit could have on the Irish peace process and north-south co-operation.

"Those who argue for the UK to leave the EU have for the most part dismissed the Irish dimension of Brexit as either irrelevant or inconsequential, a worryingly passive stance. Considering the seriousness with which people on both sides of the Irish border are taking the possibility of the UK voting to leave, Brexit advocates need rapidly to reconsider that stance and begin providing answers for these legitimate concerns."

According to the think tank, the economic consequences for Northern Ireland include an exposed economy left isolated from its second biggest market and more reliant on a poorer and pre-occupied Britain.

The potential loss of foreign direct investment, which has seen some 800 international companies set up in the region, has also been highlighted, as have claims the business community could be at a disadvantage.

The ending of the European Arrest Warrant may also make it more difficult to extradite terror suspects, while the loss of crucial EU funding for cross border projects could disrupt the peace process, the report said.

Meanwhile, British Influence has argued that a vote to leave the EU could have ramifications south of the border, where the economy is still recovering from the downturn.

"A Brexit could be the kind of shock that causes real difficulties," the report said.

While both countries would continue to trade, the volume - presently 30% of Ireland's imports, totalling some £27.86 billion - is likely to be impacted, it is claimed.

Agriculture prices may also be forced down, as the UK would no longer be subject to the Common Agricultural Policy.

And, there would also be consequences for broader relations between the UK and Ireland, which have improved immeasurably in recent years, partly down to mutual membership of the EU.

The report said: "No doubt the British and Irish Governments would seek to maintain their current strong relationship, and it is to be hoped that they would succeed.

"But ... Britain and Ireland would have chosen profoundly different paths and there would be no guarantees that the current relations would remain as they are."

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