What does UK’s aggressive Brexit approach mean for UK-Irish relations?

Business, Economy, Editor's Choice | Tue 17 Jan | Author – Business & Finance
Theresa May
Theresa May, UK prime minister

Theresa May today confirmed that the UK is to leave the European single market as concern grows regarding this hardline approach.

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has reacted to the statement as director general John McGrane stated: “It is clear from this statement that the UK Government’s concerns regarding immigration outweigh their need to retain membership of the EU single market and customs union. This will be alarming for businesses operating in both the UK and Ireland, many of whom rely on the bilateral trade between our two countries for the over 400,000 jobs they sustain.”

He continued: “Given Ireland’s greater dependence on UK trade than any other EU country, we feel it is only right that the EU understands the importance of this relationship for both islands and accommodates the special trading relationship between us. This includes maintaining the common travel area limiting border control on the island of Ireland.”

Ibec has said that any move by the UK to unilaterally forge new global trade deals was at odds with membership of the current EU customs union.

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “The possibility of the UK leaving both the single market and the customs union raises fundamental questions about Ireland’s future trading relations with the UK. In the interest of maintaining good business relations, it is vital that the UK Government sets out in more detail how the serious challenges presented by a hard Brexit might be addressed, including the impact on cross-border trade on the island of Ireland.

“This is an aggressive move by the UK, showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states. This is likely to lead to a protracted and unwelcome period of uncertainty and instability for business. Ireland is uniquely exposed to the risks given out deep economic ties with the UK.”

This is an aggressive move by the UK, showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states

The Government has noted the contents of prime minister May’s speech today and welcomes the fact that it provides greater clarity on the proposed approach of the British Government to the Brexit negotiation process.

A statement released notes: “For Ireland, the priorities for the negotiation process that lies ahead are unchanged: our economic and trading arrangements, the Northern Ireland peace process including border issues, the common travel area, and the future of the European Union. In her speech, prime minister May highlighted the specific and historic relationship between Britain and Ireland.

“The Government notes that the British approach is now firmly that of a country which will have left the EU but which seeks to negotiate a new, close relationship with it.

The Government’s preparation is extensive. Important organisational changes have been implemented in Government Departments and Agencies, with additional resources provided in key areas. Preparation to date includes the contingency work done before the UK referendum, intensified analysis and scenario planning carried out across all key sectors since, and extensive stakeholder consultation and engagement including through the all-island civic dialogue process.”

Photo: Policy Exchange