The Gov­ern­ment is sleep­walk­ing into a Brexit disas­ter

Bray People - - OPINION -

THE Ir­ish busi­ness com­mu­nity is rightly ter­ri­fied of what the post Brexit world might hold for them but, right now, the Gov­ern­ment seems to have a far too re­laxed at­ti­tude to the UK’s loom­ing di­vorce from the EU.

Since the eco­nomic crash and the on­set of Ire­land’s great de­pres­sion, Fianna Fáil has been pil­lo­ried – with much jus­ti­fi­ca­tion – for tak­ing its hands off the wheel and al­low­ing Ire­land’s econ­omy to drive off a cliff.

Whether the Sol­diers of Des­tiny have truly learned their eco­nomic les­son re­mains to be seen but their po­si­tion on Brexit gives cause for some hope.

Since UK vot­ers backed Brexit last June, Fianna Fáil has been con­sis­tent in its warn­ings about the po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on Ire­land and the ur­gent need to en­sure that the Ir­ish econ­omy is fully pre­pared for the fall­out.

FF leader Micheal Martin has com­pared the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion to the choices faced by Sean Le­mass in the late 50’s when the defin­ing de­ci­sion was made to open up Ire­land’s econ­omy.

Yet, while FF keeps bang­ing the Brexit drum, the Fine Gael gov­ern­ment it is prop­ping seems to be sound­ing a muf­fled tone.

Self-ap­pointed Brexit Min­is­ter Taoiseach Enda Kenny seems to have adopted a ‘wait, see and hope for the best’ po­si­tion and, by and large, his party is fol­low­ing that line.

Theresa May is ex­pected to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 and start the Brexit process on or be­fore March 31. Even with that dead­line loom­ing, the Repub­lic of Ire­land has no clear stance on the is­sue.

Will we stand with our part­ners in Europe and work for a deal that can help se­cure the Euro­pean Union’s fu­ture or will we use our ‘spe­cial po­si­tion’ to cosy up to our former colo­nial masters in the hope that we’ll get a few scraps from the Tories?

At the mo­ment it looks like the lat­ter. While Ir­ish diplo­mats have been closely en­gaged in the EU’s in­ter­nal talks on how it will han­dle the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Gov­ern­ment’s spin doc­tors in Le­in­ster House have seemed far more in­ter­ested in pro­mot­ing Mr Kenny’s re­la­tion­ship with Mrs May.

UK trade and the peace process are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant but Brexit is a re­al­ity.

Ire­land does more trade with EU na­tions than with the UK and the US com­bined. Yet, de­spite this, the Gov­ern­ment seems ob­sessed with the UK mar­ket above all oth­ers.

In a world dom­i­nated by China, the US and Rus­sia, would we be bet­ter off as a fully com­mit­ted mem­ber of the worlds largest trad­ing block rather than the UK’s de­pen­dent neigh­bour? This is one oc­ca­sion where we can’t af­ford to be a wall­flower. Re­mem­ber that soft land­ing promised by Brian Cowen? There won’t be a soft Brexit ei­ther.

Europe can’t al­low it and it is lit­tle more than delu­sional, wish­ful think­ing on the UK’s part.

The Brexit talks will be tough and when they be­gin in earnest, Ire­land’s ‘spe­cial po­si­tion’ will likely mean lit­tle to many around the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

As it stands, Ire­land – with half the pop­u­la­tion of Lon­don and only a mil­lion more than Ber­lin – is just too small for our in­ter­ests to re­ally fac­tor into the even­tual di­vorce agree­ment.

If we sit on the fence and try to keep ev­ery­one happy we will un­doubt­edly end up with the worst deal pos­si­ble for Ire­land.

If Ire­land is to sur­vive the fall­out we need to pick a side and we need to do it now.

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