Tuesday 28 March 2017

David McWilliams: On Brexit, we're closer to London than Berlin or Paris

Taoiseach Enda Kenny knows Ireland is closer to London and UK Prime Minister Theresa May than to Brussels and the EU. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny knows Ireland is closer to London and UK Prime Minister Theresa May than to Brussels and the EU. Photo: PA
David McWilliams

David McWilliams

In two weeks, Britain will trigger Article 50 and the clock starts ticking. The question is whether the UK and the EU can defuse the Brexit device, reaching compromise deals on everything from air travel and borders, to agriculture and banking. Or, as the clock ticks down and the stakes go up, will it culminate in a violent explosion of trade barriers, unpaid penalties and recrimination.

It is clear that Ireland's overwhelming interest is in the former scenario. We have much more at stake than any EU country. Britain is our single biggest trading partner. Irish agriculture is overwhelmingly dependent on the UK. We sell 45pc of our agriculture - our biggest indigenous industry - to the British. These ties are the economic reflection of culture and history as much as anything else. For example, if there is no agricultural deal and there are tariffs imposed on Irish food exports to the UK, we can't simply divert our massive sales of cheddar cheese to any other country because other countries don't eat the stuff!

We have to do everything in our power to ensure that the settlement is amicable.

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