Monday 21 October 2019

Editorial: 'Dangers of brexit are laid bare - we must be prepared'

'The stability of decades could be overturned due to a rush of blood to the head.' Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA
'The stability of decades could be overturned due to a rush of blood to the head.' Stock photo: Yui Mok/PA


We have sensed its ominous presence, felt its breath on the back of our necks - but when we turned around there was still nothing there: now it appears it is time to stare Brexit straight in the face.

As Tánaiste Simon Coveney said, while there can be no certainty of outcome, massive job losses and severe disruption of the economy loom large.

Fear is not supposed to shut us down but wake us up. We must hope so, as at least 40,000 Irish companies are sleepwalking into Brexit without due planning, and need to take action.

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For the last three years, the two words 'prevent' and 'protect' dominated Government priorities. To prevent a hard Border, and protect the single market. Despite the "enormous preparation" as detailed in the 100-page contingency plan outlined yesterday, it seems we would still be wise to assume crash positions. The scenario is that stark.

A no-deal Brexit would mean a "fundamental disruption" to how the all-island economy functions.

It will exert pressure on both trade and the political structures that underpin it, according to Mr Coveney. Unnerving as all that is, there are even more concerns on how no-deal security risks can be contained.

Those who feared checks on products imported from the UK, including Northern Ireland, have also had their worries confirmed.

Justice and a range of security co-operation also face unprecedented challenges.

Otherwise Ireland cannot fully participate in the EU single market and customs union.

While these implications are grave for the South, for the North they are even more so.

As spelled out in the document: "A no-deal Brexit poses risks for the Good Friday Agreement and raises profound political challenges and lasting societal impacts for Northern Ireland. The prospect of operating outside the EU with no deal would be extremely serious for businesses. It would also have potentially severe implications for North/south co-operation."

The British government might unilaterally revert to direct rule of the North after a no deal, given there is no government in the North.

And so the stability of decades could be overturned due to a rush of blood to the head to deliver that which is unattainable.

Brexit was always going to come with a heavy cost, an inconvenient truth deliberately concealed from voters by its most extreme exponents. But the scars of the past must not count as nothing.

Even Jeremy Corbyn, the poster-boy for prevarication, has finally recognised where his responsibilities lie in agreeing to back Remain in a final people's vote. However, his challenge to the next Tory leader to hold another referendum before exiting the EU, declaring Labour will campaign for Remain, smacks of too little, too late. Our own Government pledges to work with the European Commission to cushion the shock.

Marie Curie advised: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood."

Yet willingly embracing something that comes with so much danger takes some understanding.

Irish Independent

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