OPINION: Ireland stands alone in post-Brexit Europe

If immigration fears override economics again in the UK - Ireland is in trouble...

OPINION: Ireland stands alone in post-Brexit Europe


Europe's response to the UK's decision to leave the EU has been frosty at best - and Ireland could find itself isolated with Britain's representatives on key issues in the breakup negotiations.

Ireland is more exposed to the effects of Britain's decision to go its own way than any other state - a number of think tanks and economic institutions have predicted that Ireland is likely to suffer greater economic damage than the UK when this is all said and done.

The problem for Ireland is that it is likely to find itself backing British demands against combative EU power brokers with little mercy for the UK after its rejection of the Union. The better the deal is for the UK, the less disruption that there will be in trade between Ireland and Britain.

The Irish Independent quotes Enda Kenny's spokesperson as saying that Ireland will "only speak on our own behalf" - and that we are not committed to backing Britain but where our interests "overlap" we will take advantage of that fact.

Meanwhile, the message from the EU's leaders is for the UK to 'hurry up and leave' - and that they will not be granted trade deals without agreeing to serious concessions first.

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Boris Johnson's suggestion that the UK could gain access to the Single Market without immigration compromises - she maintained that the negotiating of the terms of the UK's exit will not be a "cherry picking operation."

Power plays

Ireland learned from its bailout process that it's not fun to be on the wrong side of these kinds of talks.

Europe's lack of mercy when negotiating with Greek officials who had been given a democratic mandate to renegotiate its bailout terms offered another a clearer insight into the extent that EU institutions are prepared to go to to protect its interests. 

Last week's vote showed the strength of anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK.

While the power wrangling continues in London, David Cameron's successor will more than likely be pro-Brexit. If it comes to a choice between agreeing to EU rules on the movement of people or a less-attractive trade deal, the popular support for measures to curb migration could overrule the economic argument in the same way that they did last week.

Research from EU reform group Open Europe explored a number of possible Brexit scenarios - all of them found that the Irish economy will take a larger hit than Britain. The scenarios ranged from permanent losses of 3.1% to 1.1% of the Republic of Ireland's GDP by 2030.

Last night Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan confirmed at the closing session of the National Economic Dialogue that there will be a 0.5% reduction in his department’s growth forecasts for 2017 – down to 3.4% due to the Brexit vote.

If an emotional narrative about protecting the UK's border overrides economic outcomes, Ireland's interest are unlikely to bother anyone else at the negotiating table.