Brexit pro­vides eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity for Ire­land

‘Spe­cial re­la­tion­ship’ with United States the long-term goal

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Adam Tay­lor

WASH­ING­TON — The “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” be­tween Bri­tain and the United States has been a fix­ture of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics for decades. Could Wash­ing­ton now also have a “spe­cial friend” in Ire­land?

Daniel Mul­hall, Ire­land’s am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, thinks so. And he says it’s be­cause of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union.

“Brexit is a game-changer for Ire­land,” Mul­hall said. “We be­come a bridge be­tween the Euro­pean Union and the United States both for in­vest­ment but also for in­flu­ence.”

Those hopes even have a tan­gi­ble sym­bol: This month, seek­ing to ex­pand its diplo­matic mis­sion in Wash­ing­ton, the Ir­ish govern­ment closed a deal to buy a 6,500-square-foot build­ing once used by the Egyp­tian Em­bassy.

It’s a far cry from Bri­tain’s gar­gan­tuan em­bassy com­pound, one of the big­gest in Wash­ing­ton, but it’s a sig­nal of Dublin’s in­tent.

Be­fore he took up res­i­dence in Wash­ing­ton last year, Mul­hall served as Ire­land’s am­bas­sador to Bri­tain. He per­son­ally cam­paigned against Bri­tain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.

Af­ter vot­ers pased Brexit, he told a re­porter, he felt “sad­ness” that Bri­tain’s re­la­tion­ship with Ire­land was at risk.

Now he sees Brexit as a new op­por­tu­nity for Ire­land — one that could ri­val Brex­i­teers’ hopes for an eco­nomic fu­ture that re­lies on greater trade with the United States and other na­tions out­side of Europe.

“Bri­tain is un­der a cloud of un­cer­tainty as far as its fu­ture ac­cess to the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket in con­cerned,” Mul­hall said. “We feel that any coun­try that’s look­ing at ei­ther ex­pand­ing its pres­ence in Europe or es­tab­lish­ing a pres­ence for the first time will look less fa­vor­ably on Bri­tain and more fa­vor­ably on Ire­land.”

Af­ter Brexit, British lead­ers have clung to the idea of an un­bend­ing An­gloAmer­i­can bond. British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump af­ter he took of­fice last year. Both lead­ers praised the “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” dur­ing that visit,

Madrid’s move

Spain says it will back Brexit di­vorce.

with May say­ing it was based “on the bonds of his­tory, of fam­ily, kin­ship and com­mon in­ter­ests.”

But at the same time, Bri­tain’s po­si­tion as a mem­ber of the EU was one of its key sell­ing points.

“We are strong and ac­tive mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union, the gate­way to the world’s largest sin­gle mar­ket,” said May’s pre­de­ces­sor, David Cameron, in a 2010 speech.

Many other EU coun­tries are now pledg­ing to be­come Wash­ing­ton’s new “gate­way to Europe.” Ire­land may be a par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive base for Amer­i­can com­pa­nies: Its com­mon-law sys­tem is sim­i­lar to the Amer­i­can le­gal struc­ture, and it is known for be­ing one of the most busi­ness-friendly coun­tries in the EU.

Ire­land and the United States also share a com­mon lan­guage.

“We will be the only English-speak­ing coun­try left in the Euro­pean Union,” Mul­hall pointed out.

Out­side ex­perts agree that Ire­land is well po­si­tioned to strengthen its ties to the United States.

“Ire­land’s in­sti­tu­tions have been cal­i­brated to­ward at­tract­ing U.S. in­vest­ment for decades, which places the coun­try in a strong po­si­tion to at­tract in­vest­ment which may pivot away from the U.K. post-Brexit,” said Neil Doo­ley, a pol­i­tics lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Sus­sex.

Given that Ire­land is a rel­a­tively small coun­try — just 4.7 mil­lion — even a small change could have pro­found ef­fects on the econ­omy. Ir­ish firms are re­form­ing their busi­ness plans for a post-Brexit fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Sean Davis, the re­gional direc­tor for En­ter­prise Ire­land, a state eco­nomic agency that pro­motes new ex­port sales.

Com­pa­nies spon­sored by En­ter­prise Ire­land opened 59 of­fices in the United States last year, ac­cord­ing to Davis. There are more than 800 Ir­ish-owned com­pa­nies in the United States, with 100,000 em­ployed by Ir­ish-ori­gin com­pa­nies.

That’s a use­ful talk­ing point given the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fo­cus on pro­tect­ing Amer­i­can jobs, but there could be other is­sues.

The United States has a con­sid­er­able trade deficit with Ire­land, and Trump has called out the coun­try as a “tax haven.” The tax cuts passed by Repub­li­cans in 2017 ap­pear to have hit U.S. in­vest­ment in Ire­land, ac­cord­ing to Ir­ish es­ti­mates.

With Trump, there’s the risk of un­ex­pected feuds. The pres­i­dent is at odds with the Ir­ish govern­ment on a va­ri­ety of for­eign pol­icy is­sues; he has can­celed one trip to Ire­land amid planned protests. But any hopes for a “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship,” with this pres­i­dent may be pre­ma­ture.

“I don’t think Ire­land kids it­self that it has a spe­cial, mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship with the U.S.,” said Brian Lucey, a pro­fes­sor at Trin­ity Busi­ness School at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin. “Par­tic­u­larly with Trump, where there’s a hard-nosed, mer­can­tilist ap­proach.”

KATHER­INE FREY/WASH­ING­TON POST

“Brexit is a game-changer for Ire­land,” said Daniel Mul­hall, Ir­ish am­bas­sador to the U.S.

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