On the 23rd of June 2016 the people of the United Kingdom (UK) voted on whether the country should remain in the European Union (EU). Most British voters chose to leave the EU at 51.9% (Goodwin and Heath 2016, p1). On the 29th of March 2017 the British government invoked article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon which resulted in two years of negotiations that will culminate in the UK leaving the EU on the 29th of March 2019(Rothwell and Midgley2018). Brexit will undoubtably have multiple effects on the island of Ireland. Through discussing the positive and negative effects of Brexit on Ireland, this essay will argue that Brexit will not be good for Ireland. This essay will firstly discuss the positive effects before moving on to the negative effects.
One of the major positive effects of Brexit on Ireland is the fact that it may strengthen the Republic of Ireland’s economic stance in the global market as the only English-speaking nation within the EU. (Pope2016) argues that the decision of Britain to leave the EU may result in the Republic becoming “an infinitely more attractive base for multinationals and financial houses with large suitcases of cash to spend”. The author is suggesting that the Republic of Ireland will become a haven for transnational corporations in a post Brexit world due to its “educated, English-speaking population” (Pope2016). The increase in transnational corporations may increase employment and thus could result in a stronger Irish economy.
Another benefit of Brexit for Ireland is that Irish shipping services and continental trade between the Republic of Ireland and mainland may increase as a result of the vote to leave, a side effect that would be very beneficial to the Irish economy. IMTE 2017 (cited in Vega et al2018) states:
“Trade volumes through direct continental services to France, Belgium and the Netherlands have been steadily increasing since 2013, with over 15% increase in direct continental services to France, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2016” (Vega et al 2018, p1)
This increase in trade volumes to Europe along with the possibility of a so called ‘hard Brexit’, resulting in a possible withdrawal Britain from the EU customs union may benefit Irish shipping and trade routes with the EU. Vega et al (2018) state that
“new direct shipping routes to mainland Europe may be introduced as a result of a significantly large increase in transport costs and a deterioration of the level of service along the UK Landbridge.” (Vega et al2018, p1)
An increase in shipping routes to mainland Europe from Ireland may increase the chance of Ireland housing large transnational corporations, tying in with the argument laid out by (Pope2016) that Brexit may increase Ireland’s economic stance as a stronghold of trade in Western Europe.
In terms of how Brexit may be bad for Ireland, one of the ways in which Ireland will be negatively affected is through loss of trade with the British Isles. Since obtaining its independence in 1922, trade with Britain has been paramount to the economy of the Republic of Ireland and this trend has grown since both nations became EU members in 1973(Barret et al2015, p19). The impending British departure from the EU may have adverse effects on trade between the two nations due to the difficulties presented by EU by- laws and tariffs for trading with non-EU countries (Barret et al 2015, p19). When discussing the economic implications of Brexit on the Republic, Barret et al (2015) state that,
“In particular a situation where the UK would leave the EU, with or without a subsequent bilateral trade agreement, is likely to significantly impact on trade, as non-tariff barriers such as customs controls, or technical barriers would be reintroduced and there may also be specific tariffs liable on imports from the UK” (Barret et al 2015, p17)
A so called ‘no deal Brexit’ may also have various negative implications for consumers in the Republic of Ireland. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)2018 (cited in Pope2018) state that a “‘no deal Brexit’…could cost each Irish household an average of €1,400 a year as prices rise”. Figures released from the ESRI2018 (cited in Pope2018) further state that “…the price of bread and cereals in the Republic could further rise by up to 30 per cent in a hard Brexit scenario, whole milk, cheese and egg prices could increase 46 per cent.” (Pope2018). These figures are an example of how Brexit will not be good for the Republic of Ireland and may raise the expenditure of the average Irish person on normal everyday goods by a significant amount. This predicted increase in expenditure on everyday goods is expected to increase the cost of living in the Republic by up to 3.1 per cent (Lawless and Morgenroth2018, p1). A hard Brexit may also have negative effects on consumers who wish to buy goods online from UK based sites. Pope (2018) states that,
“A hard Brexit will mean higher costs on goods bought online from Asos, Amazon or any other retailers based in the UK. Any item that costs more than €22 and comes from outside the EU is now liable to VAT, and any item over €150 is also liable to customs, chargeable on some products – notably clothing.” (Pope2018)
As this essay has previously stated, trade barriers imposed in a post Brexit world will make trade difficult between the Republic and the UK (Barret et al,2015), however these barriers will also have a diverse effect on the price of consumer goods in the Republic (Lawless and Morgenroth2018). Lawless and Morgenroth(2018) state that,
“…if Brexit results in increased trade barriers between the UK and the EU then this is likely to reduce competition in the Irish market from abroad, and lower competition allows local firms to charge higher prices.” (Lawless and Morgenroth 2018, p1)
An increase in price on a wide range of consumer goods in shops within the Republic of Ireland is an example of how Brexit will not be good for Ireland.
A direct negative result of the British vote to leave on Ireland, both North and South is the re-emergence of the border question. The peace process in Northern Ireland was centered around making the border between the North and South less important but Brexit has now completely reversed this method of dealing with disputes over partition (Leahy2016). The Border situation between the Republic and the North has remained both functional and peaceful for the past number of years and there is a political consensus to ensure that this remains so,
“The 1992 EU border-free market abolished ugly customs posts, checks and delays. Peace ended security controls. Dublin, supported by Brussels insists there is no going back.” (Independent.ie2018)
It is clear that a deal must be formed to ensure that the UK departure from the EU must contain a large amount of diplomatic discourse on the topic of the Irish border between, Britain, the EU and The Republic of Ireland. A resurgence of violence in Northern Ireland as a result of the introduction of a hard border with the South would be an extremely negative aspect of Brexit for the island of Ireland as a whole. A positive trade deal between Britain and the Republic may serve to maintain relations between the North and the South,
“A draft deal keeps the North inside the EU customs union, meaning no tariffs. The North would effectively mirror EU single market product standards.” (independent.ie2018)
This may however lead to increased political tensions between unionists and republicans in the political spectrum of Northern Ireland, the likes of which have greatly troubled Ireland’s past, “unionists fear controls for trade with England, Wales and Scotland (indepenent.ie2018)
Through the points laid out above, this essay can conclude that while Brexit may have some economic implications that are positive to the island of Ireland, they are vastly outweighed by the negative implications, thus concluding that overall Brexit will not be good for Ireland. While the positive effects are limited to economic gains, the negative effects seem to influence the people of Ireland on a much more personal level. The prospect of the return of violence in the North, the increase in the cost of living and the increase in the availability and price of general consumer goods may prove to have a significantly negative effect on the cultural, political and economic nature of Ireland.