Saturday 16 December 2017

Ireland braced for serious fallout from Brexit - here are six things you need to know now

Theresa May: 'Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.' REUTERS/Toby Melville
Theresa May: 'Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.' REUTERS/Toby Melville
John Downing

John Downing

Theresa May confirms timeline to leave the EU by 2019. So what does this all mean now?

John Downing answers your questions.

1. What exactly has the British Prime Minister Theresa May done?

She has said that her government will trigger the EU’s exit clause late next March. Once the so-called Article 50 process is started, it must be completed within two years. That makes it likely that the United Kingdom will have left the European Union by April 2019.

2. Will it all be done by April 2019?

Very probably. That is the view taken by most diplomats and politicians associated with the process. The remaining 27 member states of the European Union could extend the two years of exit negotiations by unanimous agreement only. That cannot be ruled out but it appears unlikely and the need for unanimity would clearly be a barrier to any extension.

3. What else is Ms May doing?

She will introduce a “Great Repeal Bill.” This will replace EU laws which currently have primacy over member state laws with domestic British legislation.

“It’s important for us to set this out now, so that when we leave, there’s a smooth transition,” Mrs May said on BBC television yesterday.

4. What kind of new relationship will Britain have with the European Union?

Very hard to say definitively right now. Ms May insists that Britain must get a special deal due to the country’s economic and political heft.

But she cannot give much on the European Union’s key demand of respect for free movement of people.

Emigration control was a huge factor in English voters specifically opting for “Leave” in the June 23 referendum.

Without big emigration concessions, the other 27 member states are unlikely to maintain the United Kingdom’s access to the border-free single market.

5. Does that raise big problems for Ireland?

Yes. Now the problems of our second largest trader leaving the EU really loom into view. Ireland cannot do one-to-one trade deals with the UK. That must be done via the EU.

Ireland risks becoming the meat in the EU-UK sandwich. We will struggle to keep Irish interests high on the Brexit negotiating agenda.

6. What about Northern Ireland?

All relationships between the countries in these islands will be up for grabs. Expect another referendum on Scottish independence within two years. The outcome of that could have knock-on effects for the North.

Dublin will be negotiating to avoid identity and customs checks along the Border. It will be an uphill battle.

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