Thursday 17 October 2019

David McWilliams: Official Ireland got this horribly wrong, there is no Plan B

Michael Noonan, Paschal Donohoe, and Eoghan Murphy launch the Summer Economic Statement. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Noonan, Paschal Donohoe, and Eoghan Murphy launch the Summer Economic Statement. Photo: Tom Burke

David McWilliams

The most important thing about the Brexit referendum was to get the result right. There is no point analysing the wrong result.

I always believed that the British would leave and that was an unusual position in Ireland. However, it was not an unusual position if you spent any time working or living in England.

I think what happened - it wasn't that I dissented from a widely held view that this would be bad for Ireland - is that Official Ireland just totally got this wrong.

It underestimated the strength of feeling, it overestimated the Leave side's use of propaganda when they deployed it and ultimately it has now got to pick up the pieces.

I couldn't understand why Ireland - Official Ireland, that is - bet so ubiquitously on one result in a two-horse race that we knew was going to go down to the line.

We had to have a Plan B.

And Official Ireland had no Plan B. It's very important that people know this.

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We had a two-horse race in the referendum which, for whatever reason, David Cameron had decided to call.

When it became apparent that this referendum was going to be 50-50 or close to it, we should have had a much more nuanced approach, rather than trying to scare people into voting one way.

Going back to the scare side, every single institution that told us this result would be an economic catastrophe, that it would be detrimental, they also told us in Ireland that there would be a soft landing eight years ago.

The International Monetary Fund, the European Commission - all of these institutions that were so confident in their forecast about Brexit - got everything wrong on Ireland's financial crisis.

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Now, let's just stand back a bit.

Nobody really knows what is going to happen economically after a victory for the Leave side.

However, what we do know is that during this period of uncertainty, some direct foreign investment would be diverted away from Britain.

That is in line with the thinking of "we're not going to invest there unless we know where the end result would be".

Where will that investment be diverted to following Brexit?

Americans will not stop investing in Europe via the UK and Ireland just because Britain has said that politically it is out of the European Union.

I suspect we could have a huge opportunity here to actually garner a percentage of that diverted capital and income to Ireland, rather than assuming the world is going to end after this referendum result.

What we know is change is the only thing that is constant in life and now we have got to deal with it.

Irish Independent

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