Belfast Telegraph

If Rep of Ireland's so worried about Brexit, why doesn’t it leave EU as well?

Ireland exit from EU would address concerns over border and ease trade with Britain, says Nelson McCausland

Donald Trump has certainly confounded the pollsters. This side of the Atlantic, they got it badly wrong over Brexit, and on the far side of the Atlantic, they got it badly wrong over the US presidential election.

Of course, that is not the only connection between Donald Trump and Brexit.

Back in April, when the current US President, Barack Obama, was in London with David Cameron, he told us that, if the United Kingdom left the European Union and it came to negotiating a trade deal between the UK and the USA, “the UK is going to be in the back of the queue”.

His words were carefully scripted and it was all stage-managed as part of Cameron’s Project Fear.

However, when journalists asked Donald Trump and his trade advisor, Dan DiMicco, about negotiating a trade deal between the UK and the USA, they were much more positive.

DiMicco was asked if they would do a deal with the UK ahead of the EU and he said, “absolutely”.

It is also worth noting that, after the EU referendum, US spokesmen from the Democratic Party were quick to play down the Obama threat. There was no more talk about “back of the queue”.

Nevertheless, the election of Donald Trump may help address one of the concerns that is raised by Remainers as we prepare to leave the European Union.

Another concern that is often raised by the Remainers is about the land border between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

Some readers will be old enough to remember the old days, when there was a very visible border with border posts at the side of the road (at least there were border posts, when the IRA wasn’t burning them down or blowing them up).

South of the border, Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael Government have got very worked up about it all and, as a result, they convened a forum, variously described as an “all-Ireland forum”, an “all-island forum” and a “civic society conference”.

The first meeting was held in Dublin on November 2 and the invitation list included politicians, businessmen, trade unions and NGOs.

It was hosted by Enda Kenny and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, and I’m sure they all felt better after they shared their concerns.

There were no representatives from the DUP, or indeed any unionist party in Northern Ireland, because they realise that there is no need for another forum.

There are already formal structures in place to facilitate cross-border co-operation and, with the advent of the telephone, the internet and the motorway, it is fairly easy for politicians from Northern Ireland to talk informally to their counterparts south of the border when the need arises.

Nevertheless, it is clear that, in the Irish Republic, there is concern about the future, post-Brexit.

So, perhaps, it is time for our neighbours in the Irish Republic to think the unthinkable.

If they are concerned about what will happen with the United Kingdom outside the EU and the Irish Republic still locked inside the EU, then why not leave the EU as well?

There are those who will ridicule the proposal and say that people and politicians in the Irish Republic would never contemplate that, but it is worth remembering that change is possible. While Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party are now Remainers, back in 1975 all three parties were opposed to membership of the European Community.

Not only would it deal with Dublin’s concerns about the border, it would also facilitate trade between the Irish Republic and its nearest and biggest market — the United Kingdom.

The Irish Republic would benefit and so would the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. So, as a good neighbour, could I encourage the Irish Republic to be radical and for people and politicians by considering the benefits of breaking free from the shackles of Brussels?

Indeed, Enda Kenny might consider putting put that on the agenda for his next forum meeting.

Belfast Telegraph


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