Thursday 22 February 2018

Threat by British to quit EU could prove beneficial for Ireland

A satisfactory deal for Britain would help us, but an EU exit by them would be disastrous

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron

The possibility of 'Brexit' - British exit from the EU - notched up a little during the week with the appointment of the rather Eurosceptic Philip Hammond as foreign secretary. Mr Hammond is on the record to the effect that he supports UK exit under the current terms of membership.

The fundamental in or out calculus remains unaltered, however: unless the Conservatives win the election, fixed for May 7, 2015, there will probably be no EU referendum, since the Labour Party, slightly ahead in the polls, has made no commitment to having one. They could change their minds, of course, but the pundits reckon they will not. According to the bookmakers, the most likely outcome is that no party will have an overall majority and both Labour and the Tories are (short) odds against.

Whether a referendum is held - and what way it might go - are matters of great importance for Ireland, but beyond any influence from this country. The British will either stay through denying a majority to the pro-referendum forces next year; vote to stay at a referendum; or negotiate departure after an 'out' decision in 2017. David Cameron is likely to recommend staying in - if improved terms of UK membership can be negotiated - but there is no clarity at this stage as to what modifications of membership terms will be sought. What is sought may not be granted.

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