Belfast Telegraph

Leading UK think tank says Republic should follow Britain's lead and leave the EU now

By Michael McHugh

The Irish Republic should give "serious consideration" to following Britain out of the EU, a right-leaning UK think tank said.

The Republic could opt to remain with the UK in a customs and free trade area, while negotiating as favourable as possible trade and investment terms with the remaining 26 member states, Policy Exchange added.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny firmly rejected any suggestion that the Republic should leave the EU, saying the foundation of his country's prosperity and bedrock of its society was membership of the European Union.

But this report by the influential British research organisation said: "In the circumstances, Ireland must give serious consideration to other options, including Irexit."

The document was drawn up by Ray Bassett, a former Irish diplomat and commentator.

It said Ireland faced a huge choice.

"Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, there will be a price to pay. For Ireland, there is really no upside to Brexit," it said.

"The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?

"If the Irish Government is willing to pay that price, will the Dail, and possibly the population in a referendum, be equally willing to do so?"

The report said:

• Access to the Single Market need not be synonymous with full EU membership.

• The EU faces "huge problems" and its future direction is unlikely to be in Ireland's interests.

• The DUP's central role in Brexit negotiations as part of its relationship with the Tories should facilitate strong cooperation across Ireland.

It added: "Simply sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is essentially untenable. The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the European Union as an institution.

"This is prioritised in their guidelines, approved by the European Council.

"The type of deal that Ireland's interests require, however, including free trade with the UK, is directly in contradiction with the Union negotiators mandate that anything relating to Ireland and her border which emerges from the Brexit negotiations, must 'maintain the integrity the Union's legal order', i.e., no exceptions to the customs union."

A recent poll suggested that 88% of Irish people think Ireland should stay in, although that was commissioned by an NGO which works to develop links between the Republic and EU.

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