Opinion

Friday 18 August 2017

Ireland can only limit damage as UK hurtles towards Brexit door

Most TDs are in denial over how Theresa May's poor-deal strategy will play out on this side of the water, writes Colm McCarthy

A total of 972 interviews were carried out between 7–25 April 2017 at 64 sampling points nationwide. Interviews were conducted face-to-face, in-home, with those aged 18+. The margin of error is +/- 3.1pc. Stock picture
A total of 972 interviews were carried out between 7–25 April 2017 at 64 sampling points nationwide. Interviews were conducted face-to-face, in-home, with those aged 18+. The margin of error is +/- 3.1pc. Stock picture
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

A poor Brexit deal for Britain is a bad outcome, but not just for Britain. The UK election a month hence will install a new Conservative government which has already boxed itself into a poor-deal strategy, damaging for Britain, damaging for members of the European Union but especially for Ireland. No country, other than the UK itself, has more to lose.

Theresa May's hard Brexit strategy has begun to pay off for the Conservative party, reflected in the rich harvest of former Ukip voters at last Thursday's local elections. But there has already been a fractious start to negotiations, there will be protracted rows about the financial arrangements and a disappointing trade deal is probable whenever agreement is finally reached. This is self-inflicted harm for the UK but an undeserved affliction for Ireland, to be managed with weary resignation. There is no course of action available to the Irish government other than damage limitation.

Expectations on the Tory right, encouraged recklessly by Mrs May, that exit from both single market and customs union could be executed painlessly, without damage to trade or financial cost, have always been unrealistic. The prospects for a practical deal aimed at minimising economic pain, the only attainable objective for either Britain or the EU-27, have worsened as the prime minister's position has settled on the tedious mantra "no deal is better than a bad deal". This is a slogan, not a policy. 

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