Saturday 10 December 2016

Novenas won’t save us if UK decides to exit

A UK departure would pose more hard questions for Ireland than for any 
other member state

Published 29/06/2014 | 02:30

David Cameron
David Cameron

The external border of the European Union could be located a few miles north of Dundalk inside a short few years. The row over the presidency of the European Commission matters, not because the choice of Jean-Claude Juncker is hugely important in itself, but because it raises the stakes: the United Kingdom could be on the way out of the European Union.

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The Conservative party may fail to secure a majority at the general election next year, in which case a referendum on EU membership is unlikely. But if the Tories win, there is an irrevocable commitment to an in-or-out referendum in 2017. Recent opinion polls suggest that the British public is unhappy about the current relationship with Europe and the referendum vote could go either way.  

Friday's decision to ignore the reservations of a large member state about a key appointment is unusual. There had been an understanding that the four big countries - France, Germany, Britain and Italy - would always find a compromise on filling the top posts, hence the fears that the snub to Cameron increases the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU. A British departure, coming on top of the common currency debacle, would be a damaging blow to the prestige of the European project. For Ireland, there would be some severe challenges.

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