[they] are leaving the EU”. They will not, as he said, be “drawing in their horns”.
Eamonn Molley, Dept of An Taoiseach
Eamonn Molloy has just been appointed to the Government’s new committee tasked with dealing with Brexit-related matters. The committee is chaired by An Taoiseach.
He outlined the Government priorities: trade, movement within the EU, and Northern Ireland.
Further to points made by Phil Hogan and Neil Holland, Mr Molloy stressed that it is “vital that the developments of the peace process are maintained”. In line with this, there will be an “All-island” Civic Dialogue held on Wednesday 2 November, which will provide an opportunity to hear the voices of those effected by the vote”. From there, policy can begin to take shape. The Department of An Taoiseach are also urging all departments to engage with their stakeholders. He also stressed that any economic upsides would need to be seen across the whole island.
If the economic upside ends at the M50, it’s not a real upside.
While keeping all that in mind, Mr Molloy picked up on Mr Hogan’s idea that we must strengthen ties with other EU nations. When Brexit negotiations begin next year, we will be attending as one of the 27 member states, not as a packaged deal with the UK.
After the first panel, the speakers took questions from the floor. No doubt a question that has been on the mind of anyone watching the situation unfold, one attendee asked, “Could we see an unravelling of the EU over the next couple of years?” Neil Holland assured the floor that there was never any intention to damage the EU. Jim Power commented that the EU unravelling would be what he would predict. However, it would be of the utmost importance to watch and see what lessons the EU takes away from the British situation.
Dr Vincent Power shed some light on the legalities of the current situation.
|“‘Wait and see’ is not an option”
He clarified that invoking Article 50 in and of itself does not mean that the State must leave the EU. It simply signifies the intention to leave. So, while Neil Holland assured the floor that Britain would be departing, sceptics like Jim Power could still be correct in thinking it may never happen, legally.
The majority by which the Leave vote passed was on a par with other nations who have taken a vote, and is therefore not surprising.
However, the EU, he said, was designed like a lobster pot – “easy enough to get in to, impossible to get out of”. Further, “we would be better referring to it as ‘Brexits’,” it will be more akin to a spectrum than to a binary. To Neil Holland’s point that the civil services in both the UK and Ireland would be stretched thin until details could be hammered out, Dr Power called for a permanent enlargement of the civil service to deal with issue both foreseeable at present and those that could arise at any time.
Kevin Sherry spoke of the ways that Enterprise Ireland is preparing for, and dealing with, the massive changes that are predicted in the trade sector due to the Leave vote.
|“Ireland is in a stronger position now than it was ten years ago”
Currency volatility has been a struggle for SMEs already, and “the long-term implications are unknown at this stage”, like much else. The unpredictability of the Brexit outcome is something felt by Enterprise Ireland’s clients, 47% of whom have not adjusted their forecasts or operations as they felt it was “too early to know” which way the tide flowed.
The main body of work being done at Enterprise Ireland is helping companies diversify geographically. Mr Sherry noted that the companies that suffered the least from the currency volatility were ones whose main export market was not in the UK. This will be a key focus of Enterprise Ireland in the coming years.
EI have been afforded increased funds and resources in order to support Irish companies in the UK, help them broaden their base, and increase their competitiveness.
Mr Sherry also sees opportunities for Irish companies and entrepreneurs in spaces where British participants will no longer be eligible (Horizon 2020 research and funding).
Blair Horan isolated the issue of the North/South border. He said that “we cannot assume Irish-British free movement would apply”.
Free movement of people is obviously a significant issue. With a hard border between North and South, we would risk setting the Peace Process back years. So then, a hard border could be applied between land masses and not for land-borders. A sort of permit system might apply to those crossing the border. If you crossed for travel/visiting etc, this would be fine; if you wanted to work, then a problem may arise. Such is the case with Italy and the Vatican City. Dr Power noted that this would be legally feasible, but that on this matter “law would follow politics”.
Working on the assumption that if the UK left the Single Market, they would also leave the Customs market, a myriad of problems arise. If no border is enforced between North/South for movement of people, how would the movement of goods be regulated? On the other hand, if they leave the customs market, but remain in the single market, then VAT would be applicable on arrival, causing a hindrance to the import/export market.
His final comment was that, although trade is at the fore for many, these issue would not be discussed during the initial 24 months of negotiations following March 2017. They would be separate negotiations altogether.
In the meantime, the UK will continue to transpose and enforce EU law, and remain one of the 28 member states. If they fail in their duties at enforcing these laws, the EU Commission can take enforcement action.