Sunday 22 April 2018

Anglo Irish relations could suffer if Britain votes for Brexit

British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott
British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

The English Ambassador to Ireland has warned that the special relationship between Ireland and the UK could be put in jeopardy if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

The British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott warned the relationship between the two countries had been strengthened from that of wary strangers to close allies through 40 years of working together in Brussels.

He said he feared the two countries could drift apart and issues between the two could become irritants without the “steadying effect” of the European Union.

“As the British Ambassador here I also worry that one of the great benefits of us both being members of the European Union is that over the years we have moved from being rather wary strangers to one another in terms of our governments, our ministers and our officials, to being really quite close allies and partners in the European Union. Through a process of discovery of one another in the working groups and the councils of the European Union over 40 years,” he told a public event on Britain’s EU Referendum at NUI, Galway.

Mr Chilcott said Britain currently had a good relationship with Norway, which is not a member of the EU, but said that relationship takes care of itself without too much attention. 

“But the relationship with Ireland is not like that. It’s a lot more complex, much more rich, it’s much more multi layered and there are more areas where things might go wrong that need to be put right and putting them right requires trust and confidence and knowledge of one another.

“And without the regular contact we have at the moment in Brussels I would worry that over time we would drift apart from each other and some of the things we are able to deal with well today could become issues that become irritants in our relations,” he added.

He added that it would be a shame if the “steadying effect of the European Union on our bilateral relations” were to be withdrawn.

Mr Chilcott also warned that while opinion polls show a very close race between the two camps, No voters were more likely to use their vote.

“The research that has been done suggest that people who want to vote to leave, who have been waiting for years for the opportunity to have this referendum to express their view, are probably going to vote as a higher proportion than those who wish to remain, many of whom on the day may not bother or not manage to do it.

“They may be less motivated to vote. So even if the opinion polls suggest things are close, the turnout for both camps will be extremely important,” he added.

Speaking at the same event, the chairman of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council Prof John McHale said the best case scenario of a Brexit vote would involve “a very large shock to investment trade and income”.

He warned that any negative impact on the UK was have a strong knock on effect on the Irish economy, with every 1pc decrease in British GDP resulting in a 0.3pc drop in Irish GDP.

He said while Ireland may gain a small amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a result of a Brexit, the lower FDI in the UK would have a stronger negative effect here.

He added that the economic case for leaving the EU was a lot weaker than many UK voters believed.

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