Sunday 25 February 2018

The Government is sleepwalking into a Brexit disaster

Editorial Comment

Our View

The Irish business community is rightly terrified of what the post Brexit world might hold for them but, right now, the Government seems to have a far too relaxed attitude to the UK's looming divorce from the EU.

Since the economic crash and the onset of Ireland's great depression, Fianna Fáil has been pilloried - with much justification - for taking its hands off the wheel and allowing Ireland's economy to drive off a cliff.

Whether the Soldiers of Destiny have truly learned their economic lesson remains to be seen but their position on Brexit gives cause for some hope.

Since UK voters backed Brexit last June, Fianna Fáil has been consistent in its warnings about the potentially devastating impact on Ireland and the urgent need to ensure that the Irish economy is fully prepared for the fallout.

FF leader Micheal Martin has compared the current situation to the choices faced by Sean Lemass in the late 50's when the defining decision was made to open up Ireland's economy.

Yet, while FF keeps banging the Brexit drum, the Fine Gael government it is propping seems to be sounding a muffled tone.

Self-appointed Brexit Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny seems to have adopted a 'wait, see and hope for the best' position and, by and large, his party is following that line.

Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 and start the Brexit process on or before March 31. Even with that deadline looming, the Republic of Ireland has no clear stance on the issue.

Will we stand with our partners in Europe and work for a deal that can help secure the European Union's future or will we use our 'special position' to cosy up to our former colonial masters in the hope that we'll get a few scraps from the Tories?

At the moment it looks like the latter. While Irish diplomats have been closely engaged in the EU's internal talks on how it will handle the Brexit negotiations, the Government's spin doctors in Leinster House have seemed far more interested in promoting Mr Kenny's relationship with Mrs May.

UK trade and the peace process are incredibly important but Brexit is a reality.

Ireland does more trade with EU nations than with the UK and the US combined. Yet, despite this, the Government seems obsessed with the UK market above all others.

In a world dominated by China, the US and Russia, would we be better off as a fully committed member of the worlds largest trading block rather than the UK's dependent neighbour?

This is one occasion where we can't afford to be a wallflower.

Remember that soft landing promised by Brian Cowen? There won't be a soft Brexit either.

Europe can't allow it and it is little more than delusional, wishful thinking on the UK's part.

The Brexit talks will be tough and when they begin in earnest, Ireland's 'special position' will likely mean little to many around the negotiating table.

As it stands, Ireland - with half the population of London and only a million more than Berlin - is just too small for our interests to really factor into the eventual divorce agreement.

If we sit on the fence and try to keep everyone happy we will undoubtedly end up with the worst deal possible for Ireland.

If Ireland is to survive the fallout we need to pick a side and we need to do it now.


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