If Britain quits the EU, should we be next?
We stand to lose more than our closest ally if the UK goes to the polls over an exit from Europe, says Colm McCarthy
the decision to abolish the Irish currency and join the eurozone in 1999 was a break with the precedent regarding Ireland's membership in the EU itself. Ireland applied to join the EU's forerunner, the Common Market, in the 1960s only when Britain applied; withdrew that application when British membership was vetoed by the French and eventually joined, alongside Britain, in 1973. But Ireland chose to join the euro even though the British decided to stay outside and retain sterling. There are few commentators in Britain today who regret their decision and plenty in Ireland who regret ours.
The attachment of the Irish policy establishment to all things European may be about to face another test. Britain could conceivably quit the European Union within a few years, leaving Ireland, if it stayed in, for the first time bound to a European political and economic system without our nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner.
According to a report from the London-based think tank Open Europe, released last week, there would be costs, both political and economic, for Ireland if the British chose to leave and Ireland decided to remain. It is reasonable to guess that there would be costs to leaving alongside the Brits, but the Open Europe report does not quantify them.