Speech by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Border Region Development Brendan Smith TD on the possible implications of a British Exit from the EU

A report published today by the ESRI highlights the possible economic implications of a British exit from the EU for Ireland across four areas – trade, foreign direct investment, energy and migration. The findings make for sobering reading and it is clear from the Report that the consequences for Ireland are far reaching and wide ranging.

Among the findings of the Report it is estimated that a Brexit could reduce bilateral trade flows between Ireland and Britain by 20 per cent or more. In addition, less Foreign Direct Investment is likely to result in slower economic growth in Britain, which in turn would impact negatively on Ireland’s economic growth. The Report also highlights that the all-island electricity market has existed since 2007 and if the electricity market in Britain remains independent of the rest of the EU, interconnection with Britain only would leave Ireland vulnerable to any problems in the British market.

In terms of migration the report underscores that a British exit from the EU opens up the possibility of restrictions on the free movement of people between Ireland and Britain for the purposes of work. As we all know, Britain has long been a destination for many Irish seeking work, particularly during times of high unemployment, and an exit from the EU could have significant repercussions for the Irish labour market.

The findings of the ESRI report are stark and underscore the seriousness of this issue. This Referendum is taking place in the not too distant future and it is clear that we need to start a national conversation on the implications of Brexit and what it would mean not only for Ireland, but for the EU as a whole. If Britain was to leave the European Union, the nature of the most successful transnational organisation ever created would be irrevocably changed.

We in Fianna Fáil believe that awareness needs to be created across all of this country of the gravity of this particular issue in relation to trade, employment, tourism, agriculture, fisheries and food, free movement of people and of course Northern Ireland. Britain is our nearest neighbour and our largest trading partner. If Britain votes to leave the EU the knock-on effects will be felt the length and breadth of the country, but particularly in the border counties and my own constituency of Cavan/Monaghan.

Farmers and food processors both North and South depend on access to the EU Market of 500 million people. The business community would suffer badly from a situation where a new border springs up across the 6 counties, a regulatory border that would divide this island once more.

We must re-establish EU solidarity. This is vital if we are to convince Britain and Northern Ireland to remain part of the European Union. The normal EU spirit of solidarity and co-operation between Member States is best illustrated in the border region.

Peace funding has been vital in supporting the fledgling agreement framework. Co-operation between North and South, between Ireland and Britain has been the engine of the Good Friday Agreement. Our role as co-guarantors of the Agreement binds us together. North and South we have to maximise the potential of the Good Friday Agreement for the good of all of the people on all of this Island. Those links were forged in the common ground of the EU and need to last.

Breaking this link by a unilateral British and Northern Ireland withdrawal would deal an immense blow to our capacity to work together. We must do everything we can to safeguard Ireland’s political and economic future. We in Fianna Fáil will be vocal in supporting Britain remaining a full Member State of the EU.