Monday 24 November 2014

Trade links a chance for new relationship with UK

Published 18/07/2013 | 05:00

A few eyebrows will undoubtedly be raised at suggestions that British and Irish trade missions should be merged when promoting our companies abroad. Suggestions that UK visas will also extend to the Republic are also likely to anger some people, but both suggestions are welcome and show once again the links with our nearest neighbour are deepening and improving rapidly.

The suggestions, contained in a lengthy report commissioned by the Irish and British governments and due to be published in days, need to be considered carefully because there are some reasons to be cautious.

Irish interests and UK interests do not always overlap. We compete for the same foreign direct investment. Irish and British companies producing similar products will want to beat one another to win contracts overseas.

There are real concerns but there are nevertheless good, solid economic reasons to pool resources and sovereignty. Ireland competes with Singapore and Israel rather than the UK for business. Many people in China or India are as hazy about the differences between Connemara and the Home Counties as most of us are when it comes to Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. A partnership with the UK will help us to project Ireland overseas.

In a large and crowded world, it makes sense for countries to pool their energy and reputations. As two English-speaking islands with a certain outlook and legal system, we have much in common.

David Cameron and Enda Kenny are more often than not in agreement on issues such as tax when they sit down at the endless European summits which dominate decision-making in Europe these days.

Better links between Ireland and Britain mirror what is happening elsewhere in Europe. The Scandinavian countries and Finland have common borders and often share embassies overseas. The French and Germans have set old enmities aside to create joint state institutions and even joint regiments.

Ireland and Britain's common history has often been tangled and disfigured by violence but it has not been any worse than the wars that wracked Sweden and Denmark or Germany and France. It is time to follow the lead of others and look towards the future rather than wallow in the past.

Irish Independent

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