Wednesday 11 December 2019

Impact on Ireland: Five things that may happen if Britain leaves the EU

British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes Taoiseach Enda Kenny to 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: PA
British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes Taoiseach Enda Kenny to 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: PA

Michael Cogley

We're now just one week away from an historic EU decision facing Britain, whether or not to leave the EU.

Pollsters, politicians, and punters have all weighed in on which way the scales may tip when voters go to the ballot boxes on June 23.

Speculation and analysis has gone into overdrive since British prime minister David Cameron announced the referendum date back in February.

Currently the Financial Times' "Poll of Polls" is leaning slightly on the side of remain, with 45pc opting for a stay vote and 43pc opting to leave.

Should the leavers prevail the result is likely to have a major affect on Ireland. Here are five of some of the biggest changes a Brexit vote may incur.


What may be the most tangible change of all is the establishment of borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic. British chancellor George Osborne warned voters of a return to border check points between the two countires.

Should Osborne's warnings come to fruition it would mean passport control at the border and the end of free movement between the two states.


This heavily depends on what type of deal Britain secures if it decides to leave. For example, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein all have a special relationship with the EU that promotes free trade and economic integration.

However, Ireland has been warned that if Britain does not develop this type of relationship it may be near impossible to secure a special free trade deal. This is in spite of the fact that Ireland relies heavily upon the UK as an export destination.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Amongst the benefits for Ireland if the Brits do decide to leave could be an influx in foreign direct investment. Overseas firms looking for a native English-speaking EU nation may look enviously upon us and decide to move some of its operations here.

Companies will already be looking at Ireland and evaluating its usefulness as a nation. The country will have to pass a number of key tests to attract larger firms here including infrastructure, workforce, and the availability of commercial property.

Weak sterling

This downside airs very much on the side of exporters. Should the sterling plummet in value as it has been doing since the turn of the year it would make it more expensive to export to the UK.

Incidentally it would also make Irish exporters less competitive in the UK as the retail price of their products would increase, making them less attractive to consumers.

Employment and wages

Various sectors both in Ireland and the UK are reporting a slowdown in their hiring due to the uncertainty looming around the decision. A natural reaction. However there may be some lasting effects in this area for Ireland.

For example, Irish workers in the UK could face losing their right to British in-work benefits such as tax credits. A recent survey of Irish workers from found that almost 70pc of employees in the Republic fear the lasting effects of a Brexit decision.

If you buy into what Mr Cameron is saying, Brexiteers are "sacrificing jobs" by choosing to leave the bloc.

Online Editors

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