Tuesday 10 December 2019

UK voters in danger of walking off cliff, claims trade chief

John McGrane, British Irish Chamber of Commerce boss
John McGrane, British Irish Chamber of Commerce boss

Colm Kelpie in Manchester

THE deep economic connections between the UK and Ireland are often taken for granted, the head of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce has warned.

At an event organised by the Chamber in Manchester yesterday, John McGrane said trade won't cease between the UK and Ireland in the event of a vote to pull out of the EU on June 23.

But he claimed that trading relationship will be worth less and will be smaller.

"We often take for granted that we are joined at the economic hip," Mr McGrane said at the event, attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

"This isn't about alarmism. We're all grown up enough to know that the world won't stop [if a Brexit occurs], but less business will be done that could be done the more we put a barrier in the way of trade.

"What we don't want is that somebody, in the aftermath of walking over this cliff, if that's what happens, begins to realise we have created so many impediments."

It comes as a poll shows that small businesses in Britain are divided on whether Britain should leave the EU, but the majority believe voters will opt to remain.

Mr Flanagan told the small, business-focused audience at the Chamber event that Irish connections in Manchester run deep. "By the mid 1800s, 10pc of the population was Irish and today the annual Manchester Irish Festival is the largest in the UK and one of the biggest in the world," the minister said.

"Our business connections are very strong with major Irish-owned companies such as CRH, Jurys Inns, Glanbia, Kerry Foods and the ABP Food Group investing in the area."

The engagement was the final one in a two-day visit to Liverpool and Manchester that included addresses at the University of Liverpool and the Irish Heritage Centre in Manchester, in a push to encourage Irish people living in the UK to vote in the referendum.

There were no pro-Brexit voices at the events, which included warnings that some form of border would be reintroduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic if a Brexit occurs.

The leave campaign disagrees, claiming that the border will remain open.

A day after leave campaigners suggested a post Brexit Britain would impose a points system for immigration, Mr Flanagan suggested to the Irish Independent that this could pose problems for other EU countries.

"A situation where one of the islands would be subject to the common travel area and the other not, could well prove problematic," he said.

Irish Independent

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