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Brexit: What does it mean for Ireland?

Arlene reflects on an EU without Britain

Written by Arlene Walsh-Wallace and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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The upcoming referendum in the United Kingdom concerning a potential exit from the European Union is sure to become a defining moment in modern European history. Questions have been raised on both sides of the campaign, each questioning the potential impact a yes vote could have on not only the UK itself, but also on the EU and each of its member states. There is no doubt that if the decision is taken to leave, it would have a profound effect on Ireland. The changes would be not only economic as one might first think - Brexit would also alter the political and social interaction between us and our only neighbouring state.

Firstly, the economic challenges Ireland would face in the wake of a Brexit would be monumental, placing huge pressure on businesses, particularly those in the border counties trading mainly with Northern Ireland. The UK had been our main trading partner even before entering the EU alongside one another in 1973, and it continues to be such to this day, despite the increase in European and global trade. At present, 16% of our manufactured goods and 19% of our services are exported to the UK.

If the free trade policy of the EU was no longer to apply, it would have a devastating impact on the Irish economy. The repercussions would be greater for indigenous companies than for multinationals, as they have a far heavier reliance on trade across the Irish Sea. In fact, a study by Open Europe has shown that a Brexit could potentially leave a larger mark on Ireland than the UK itself if it were to go ahead, with a potential loss of GDP of between 1.1% and 3.1% by 2030. It would also be necessary for Ireland to input more money into the EU budgets if the UK were to no longer be available for funding.

Concerns have also been voiced about the possible negative consequences of a Brexit on the already fragile political situation in Northern Ireland. It has been argued that a strain would be placed on North-South relations, despite the many years of hard work on both sides to improve and maintain them following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The impact of a Brexit on border counties would also be damaging, especially if a Common Travel Area was not maintained. A mandatory introduction of border controls would not only create a physical barrier between the two countries, but also symbolise the re-emergence of a political one. It would also have ramifications for the average citizen, making it much more arduous to travel north for a day of shopping, due to increased border controls and an increase in traffic as a result.

Thus, given the importance of continuing to maintain a positive and stable relationship with Northern Ireland, and a desire to prevent a future weakening of the economy, the Irish government has expressly aimed to do all they can to prevent a Brexit. This includes backing the reforms which the UK is demanding to their membership in return for remaining in the Union.

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Published December 7th, 2015
Tags european parliament brexit
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MEPs in Dublin Constituency

Lynn Boylan

01 873 6554


58 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

Nessa Childers

01 296 2263


11 Glenard Hall, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14

Brian Hayes

01 209 6548


6 Main Street, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

MEPs in Midlands North West Constituency

Matt Carthy

042 967 4001


10 Monaghan Street, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

094 962 2710


Priory House, Barrack Street, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon

Marian Harkin

071 914 5890


28 Emmet Place, Union Street, Sligo

Mairead McGuinness

041 685 4633


Mentrim, Drumconrath, Navan, Co. Meath

MEPs in South Constituency

Deirdre Clune

1890 989 533


74 South Mall, Cork

Seán Kelly

085 125 5263


European Parliament, ASP 08F353, rue Wiertz 60, B-1047 Brussels.

Liadh Ni Riada

01 872 6100


20 Commons Road, Blackpool, Cork

Brian Crowley

021 489 6433

Maryborough Lodge, Maryborough Hill, Douglas, Cork

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