Wednesday 21 February 2018

Don't be baffled by Brexit buzzwords when it can be as easy as ABC

Confused by all that Brexit jargon and sheaves of statistics? Worry not, John Downing has all you need to know from A to Z

Prime Minister Theresa May signs the Article 50 letter in her London office yesterday before it was dispatched to Brussels to be handed over this morning. Photo: PA
Prime Minister Theresa May signs the Article 50 letter in her London office yesterday before it was dispatched to Brussels to be handed over this morning. Photo: PA
John Downing

John Downing

A is for Article 50: Nobody believed this 'exit clause' would be used when it was put into the EU Lisbon Treaty in 2008. But here we are with a two-year time limit to cut at least an outline deal before March 2019.

B is for Border: Ireland's biggest concern is the prospect of a return to the bad old days as Northern Ireland becomes the UK-EU land frontier. Customs from Dundalk to Derry?

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves a EU Summit in Brussels last December. Photo: REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves a EU Summit in Brussels last December. Photo: REUTERS

C is for Common Travel Area: Another key Irish priority will be keeping the right to travel without passport controls among all the nations on these two islands. But that raises big practical and legal issues.

D is for Divorce: In practice this is what the UK wants from the EU after a 44-year relationship. Divorces are often acrimonious and expensive. The EU has a €60bn "farewell bill" for London. Britain insists it owes nothing.

E is for Europe: It has had various names - EEC, EC and finally EU - since we joined in 1973. Our biggest trade partner is quitting. But Ireland is not.

F is for Farage: Nigel Farage is the former UK Independence Party leader who goaded former UK Prime Minister David Cameron into taking a disastrous gamble on June 23 last.

G is for the Good Friday Agreement: Probably Ireland's biggest priority of all is maintaining the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. The 1998 deal was totally based on Britain and Ireland being EU members. Necessary Brexit changes could destabilise things.

H is for hard Brexit: London wants a clean break, abandoning the EU single market and customs union. That probably means controls and tariffs which could damage Irish trade.

Britain has so far avoided any signs of an economic shock since last June’s Brexit vote but the longer-term impacts remain unknown. Photo: Getty Images
Britain has so far avoided any signs of an economic shock since last June’s Brexit vote but the longer-term impacts remain unknown. Photo: Getty Images

I is for Ireland: We are the ones with most to lose here, with the implications for the Border and two-way Irish-UK trade worth €1.4bn per week.

J is for jobs: Trade losses could stall Ireland's remarkable employment growth. But there may be a silver lining with lots of banking, money trading and other jobs migrating here.

K is for Kenny: The will-he-stay-or-will-he-go Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. He says he wants to see the Brexit negotiating ground rules fixed before he leaves Government Buildings. This long goodbye has become a Brexit sub-plot.

L is for language: French dominated the EU up to 20 years ago. Then various expansions saw English grow. The British are leaving - but English will retain its importance.

M is for May: Theresa May was nominally in favour of staying in the EU. Now she talks about a hard Brexit and a unique deal. But there are doubts about her ability to deliver.

N is for negotiations: An outline deal must be done inside two years. Any extension must be agreed unanimously. If the UK walks away without a deal, World Trade Organisation rules apply - meaning potentially high tariffs.

O is for Opt-Out: In practice Ireland was among a number of countries that got a permanent exemption from some EU policies. So did Britain, most notably on not joining the euro. Now Britain wants a total opt-out.

P is for passports: Never in our history has an Irish passport been in greater demand. Hardline Unionists in the North are looking for them and so is every other EU-supporting British citizen who can find an Irish granny.

Q is for QMV: That's "Qualified Majority Voting" to you and me. The remaining 27 EU member states will use a weighted voting system to approve any Brexit deal. This requires the backing of 20 member states accounting for 65pc of the EU population.

R is for referendum: The UK voted by 52pc to 48pc to quit the EU. Scotland (62pc to 38pc) and Northern Ireland (56pc to 44pc) voted to Remain. England (53pc to 47pc) and Wales (52pc to 48pc) backed Leave.

S is for Scotland: Now angry at being dragged out of the EU and threatening a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum which was defeated by 55pc to 45pc. What happens in Scotland can influence things in the North.

T is for Tariffs and Trade: Some Brexit campaigners claimed Britain could leave the EU and still avail of the tariff-free single market. That is a non-starter. Britain is seeking a new EU relationship with as low and as few tariffs as possible.

U is for United Ireland: Being talked about seriously for the first time in years. If Scotland quits the UK over Brexit, and a hard Border returns in the North, all kinds of change, in theory at least, is possible.

V is for Veto: In practice Ireland cannot veto deal terms it dislikes. No one has a veto in this. It's about persuasion and alliances.

W is for welfare: Britain's generous welfare system caused alarm and calls for restricted movement. It was a key factor in the Brexit vote.

X is for Xenophobia: The posh word for dislike of foreigners, on the rise internationally, and claimed as a factor in Brexit. You rarely hear the word for the opposite - xenophilia.

Y is for Yawn: Many of the negotiation details will make observing paint drying seem enthralling. But try not to zone out too much. This is about cash in all our pockets.

Z is for Zero: A summation of the volume of goodwill towards Britain from many key EU states right now.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business