The Irish business community should take a more proactive role in preventing a UK exit from the European Union, believes John McGrane of The British Irish Chamber of Commerce.
McGrane stated that a Brexit would “have a very serious effect on Irish trade, damaging our export-driven economies on both sides of the Irish border”.
A recent ESRI report showed that a UK exit from the EU is likely to reduce bilateral trade flows by a minimum of 20%, and could potentially slash wages in the Republic by 4.5% across different sectors. In addition, it is likely to knock 1.1 percentage points off GDP growth.
McGrane commented: “Next month, the United Kingdom will vote on its membership of the EU. As the UK’s nearest neighbour and largest trading partner, the stakes are almost as high for Ireland as they are for Britain. Every week, over €1bn in trade is carried out between our two islands. This trade is directly responsible for 400,000 jobs, and even more indirectly.”
Ramifications on Northern Ireland’s economy are of particular concern, given that 60% of its exports go to the EU, including through the Republic.
Agri-food business, for example, makes up largest sector in the Northern Irish economy, employing over 100,000 people directly and generating £4.5bn annually. The majority of its output is channelled into the Republic.
A vote for Brexit could potentially endanger these certainties on both sides of the Irish border, leading to heightened political tensions, increased smuggling and a dramatic reduction in trade.
Polls are pointing to an extremely close result. Trade aside, the Irish make up the UK’s largest minority, with at least 380,000 eligible to vote in the referendum – a potentially decisive number in a tight vote. Not only that, one in four Britons is of Irish descent.