Belfast Telegraph

Irexit can't be ruled out, says former Irish diplomat

By Claire Murphy

A former Irish diplomat has said an 'Irexit' from the EU needs to be considered if Brussels fails to offer satisfactory terms in any Brexit deal.

Dr Ray Bassett, who also served as ambassador to Canada, said that the Republic of Ireland needed to stand up to Brussels in EU negotiations surrounding Brexit.

Dr Bassett said the Republic's carte blanche assurance that it would remain in the EU regardless of the deal offered to the UK was not appropriate.

"We certainly hope we can continue as an active and supportive member of the EU, but we should rule nothing out. If we are determined to stay in at whatever the cost, then our bluff may indeed be called. In Brussels, as we saw in the infamous bailout and other matters, Ireland's national interest does not carry much weight nowadays," he said.

Dr Bassett is the first retired Irish diplomat to call for a shift in the Irish government's negotiating strategy. He said most other EU countries were part of other international groupings, but the Republic had no natural allies inside the EU.

"Ireland's indigenous SMEs and its labour market remain inextricably linked to Britain. The relationship in these areas is still more important to us than our relationship with the rest of the EU," he said.

"Post-Brexit, and on the assumption that Ireland will remain a member of the EU, the country will find itself alone inside the EU.

"The present instruction is that, at all costs, no indication can be given by our officials that our continued membership of the EU is in any doubt, regardless of the outcome of negotiations on Brexit. The policy is very much at odds with our national interest and in effect, no Irish government can give that assurance.

"In the end, membership of the EU is a matter for the people of Ireland. If the terms offered to Ireland after Brexit mean we simply cannot live with them, then clearly our membership of the EU will be up for grabs."

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