Friday 24 November 2017

7 things we learned from TV3's Brexit review

Matt Cooper is pictured for TV3's Brexit special
Matt Cooper is pictured for TV3's Brexit special
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

On June 23rd the British people will vote on whether or not to leave the European Union. It’s a fairly gripping political drama anyway, but Brexit could also have practical (and enormous) implications for Ireland. In tonight’s TV3 show, Matt Cooper’s Brexit Dilemma, the Today FM broadcaster examined what a Brexit might mean for us. It was a good, informative hour’s telly, which showcased Cooper’s top-class command of political and economic briefs.

And here are seven interesting things we heard and, perhaps, learned:

1 Britain joined the then-EEC in 1973 – same year as us. Their Prime Minister David Cameron won certain concessions from the EU earlier this year, but these may not be enough to overcome, as Matt phrased it, “deep-seated opinions, and in some cases, prejudices” over in Blighty.

2 The euro has been “a nightmare for us” since 2002, Cooper reckoned, while Britain is booming economically. So membership of the EU isn’t automatically, or totally, a good thing?

3 There are €1billion of goods and services exchanged every week between our two nations; the UK is “our biggest trading partner by far”, according to Peter Sutherland. And this flow goes both ways: Ireland is, for example, the biggest market for British food and drink. However, there’s a caveat here: according to Eamon Walsh of UCD, a lot of this isn’t actually trade between Britain and Ireland. For instance, French champagne moving from Dublin to Belfast is counted statistically as an Irish export to the UK.

4 Michael Carey of Bord Bia reckoned that Brexit would make the cost of doing business much higher, due to tariffs and so on. And Sutherland added that, while the EU would take “great steps to facilitate us” in the event of Brexit, that will not be “at the expense of damaging Europe as a single trading bloc.”

5 There are no external borders in the entire EU that don’t have concrete border controls. Which means that our border with Northern Ireland would have to change drastically – no more nipping up to Newry for cheap fuel and deals on toilet paper, without passing border control first.

And the EU has also funded a lot of cross-border and peace process projects. Ruth Tallion, Director of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies, says the North has been a net beneficiary of some €10billion from EU membership. On the other hand, one of the Leave campaign’s big arguments is that Britain pays too much into the EU – so this is money Northern Ireland would be getting anyway.

6 MEP Mairead McGuinness reckoned that citizens across Europe are questioning many aspects of the EU. There “won’t be a rush towards further referendums”, she reckons, but states might want to negotiate for new deals on a raft of issues. And the conditions of Britain’s exit “would be difficult, which might dissuade others”.

7 Will we finish with a Michael O’Leary quote? Ah yeah, why not: “It’s important from an Irish perspective to keep the UK in, because they’re one of the sensible voices around the European table…the French are adopting the same economic policies as North Korea.”

Classic O’Leary. Please, someone make this man King of Europe already.

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