Ireland As Cyprus Rather than Germany?

The Good Friday agreement allows for a border poll and the reunification of Ireland should there be a possibility of a majority in NI being in favour of the poll.

Like the Brexit referendum a simple majority (50%+1) is sufficient to trigger a United Ireland (unlike the Brexit referendum which was simply advisory a NI referendum will be legally binding). Of course the South must also agree. Until recently it looked unlikely that a majority of people in NI would vote for a United Ireland. With both parts of Ireland being in the EU and an open border it was not a pressing issue and many from the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican (CNR) community were happy with the status quo. After all, Northern Ireland is heavily subsidised by the UK central government to the tune of about £5.5k per head (c £9bn), the quality of life is reasonable for most people and anyone in NI who wishes to become an Irish citizen (and by extension an EU citizen) has an automatic right to become one. A United Ireland would be an unknown and the NHS for example is rightly very highly valued. Among the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) community there is of course low support for a United Ireland, particularly amongst older traditional voters. (Though I had an interesting conversation with a NI protestant Anglo-Irish historian in Antrim last week who though NI was a failed entity).

However there is no guarantee that a pro-union majority will last and indeed there are signs that things are changing. The most recent Lucid Talk  border poll is interesting in that whereas there is still roughly a 55%/45% split pro Union, amongst younger voters in the 18-44 age group there is  a majority in favour of a United Ireland with some metrics showing 56.4% being in favour. Of course a single opinion poll is of little value, but is indicative that things might be changing. Nearly all other previous opinion polls have been much more pro-Union. Brexit could make a dramatic difference with the Republic being in the EU and NI outside; the border has the potential to become very closed with strict custom controls etc. We seem to be in a changing landscape with a very uncertain future.

Pull Factors towards a United Ireland

There are a number of pull factors which make a United Ireland increasingly likely over the next decade.

  • The main Unionist party, the DUP, is very socially conservative and has controversial views on for example Climate Change, Abortion, Evolution and HIV. It is looking increasingly out of touch in the 21st century and is an anathema to many younger voters. It makes no effort to court voters from the CNR community, indeed it adopts a “circle the wagons” approach of appealing to its core support. The main Nationalist party SF has a very progressive agenda; far more appealing to a younger voter.
  • The demographics are such that there are more Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland in every age group below 46 (below 40 in the 2011 census). Older age groups have an increasingly Protestant majority with Protestants outnumbering Catholics by around 2:1 in the  70+ age range. The tipping point when Catholics outnumber Protestants is likely to happen within about 10 years.
  • The Republic of Ireland is socially looking more attractive for younger voters, shaking off its traditional heavily Catholic favour. One indicative change is the openly gay, half Indian premier in Leo Varadkar. The Catholic Church used to have a very strong influence in the Republic, but since the sex and abuse scandals of the 1980s and 1990s it is a very much diminished force. It seems to be embracing the 21st Century with increasing confidence, unlike the UK which seems to be regressing to the 1950’s.
  • The Republic of Ireland is doing very well economically  having weathered the Global Financial Crisis, with the predicted growth rate for 2017 being again the highest in the euro zone  (for the fourth year in a row) of around 5%. Meanwhile the UK economy is stuck in the doldrums. The South is already considerably richer than the North and this difference is only likely to increase.
  • Young voters in NI as in the UK as a whole were much more pro-EU than their older counterparts. Indeed NI as a whole voted to stay in the EU by a 12% margin. Uniquely NI has an easy option of staying in the EU via reunification.
  • The open border between NI and the Republic is very highly valued by the CNR community which is more concentrated along the border. The Unionist heartlands of Antrim, North Down and the Coleraine region tend to be furthest away from the border, Fig. 1, (with the exception of the Moyle and Ratlin Island areas in the extreme NE which are strongly Catholic).
  • Even though the Republic has a modern economy, agriculture plays a much greater part than in the UK as a whole. NI has an even more heavily based agricultural economy and may well be a better fit for a UI rather than remaining in the UK.
  • There are many people in the Republic who care deeply about the North. As someone who has lived in the England for many years I see an almost universal lack of interest in Northern Ireland and a wish that it would simply go away. It is rather sad that the love the Loyalists have for Britain is so unrequited. There is a worry that as far as the English are concerned NI is quite expendable should it be an obstacle to an EU deal which would be favorable for England.
  • The most comprehensive report on the effect of a United Ireland on the North undertaken by Canadian consultancy KLC and University of British Columbia academics, who have carried out similar reports on German and Korean unification — suggests “significant long-term improvement” in the economies of both the North and the Republic resulting from unification (but most significantly for NI).

 

Fig. 1 Areas with a predominantly Catholic Population (Green) and Protestant Population (Orange).

 

There is a Near Zero probability of Ireland rejoining the UK

One way of avoiding a hard border and to achieve reunification is for Ireland to rejoin the UK. This is highly unlikely because of historic and economic reasons and the state of the opinion polls.

Ireland has a very successful 18th Century, not perfect by any means but by the end of the 18th Century it was considerably more prosperous and more populous than Scotland. At the end of the 18th century disastrously the Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland entered full Union with Britain in 1801 with pretty much all power centralised in Westminster.

Britain had an extraordinary 19th century, indeed by the end of the century it was arguably the strongest power in the world, both militarily and economically; though both Germany and in particular the US were catching up fast and the US eclipsed Britain in the 20th century. The 19th century in complete contrast was catastrophic for Ireland with the singular exception of the NE corner, Antrim and Down; the greater Belfast region.

In terms of population it was estimated that in 1801 the population of Ireland was about 5 million (though there was no proper census till 1821 and some estimates put the population as low as 4 M), The population of England was a bit under  8 M, that of Wales about 0.6 M and that of Scotland 1.6 M. By the end of the century the population of the 26 counties (which later became the Republic) was 3.2 M, with a further 1.2 M in the six counties which became Northern Ireland. Its impossible to know if the Irish population was larger in 1900 than 1800. It is also interesting that the Irish population was more than twice that of Scotland in 1800 and more than half that of England. By 1901 things were very different, the Scottish population had risen to 4.5 M, more than doubling and exceeding that of Ireland (and remained more populous till the mid 1980s when Ireland again overtook Scotland) , but England had a nearly four fold population increase  to 30 M. Wales also had a nearly four fold increase of population to about 2 M. In 1801 Dublin was easily the second largest city on these islands after London, by 1900 it was not even in the top 10 and possibly not even in the top 20, with the only bright spot in Ireland being Belfast which was now the largest city in Ireland. Of course these end dates hide the detail and the real catastrophe occurred in the 1840s with the great famine; about 1 M died and another 2 M emigrated mainly to the United States. The response of the UK government was at best incompetent during that period. For a less charitable view see for example here.

Things spiralled out of control in the 1916-1921 period and rather than going for a devolved government as outlined in the 3rd Home Rule Bill of 1914, possibly not that dissimilar to Scotland’s position today, we ended up with the Free State of the 26 counties, becoming a totally independent Republic in 1949 and NI remaining in the UK.

It is interesting to look however at the counterfactual where Ireland stayed within the UK but with a devolved government. Ideally Scotland would give a good comparator, however there are two complications, in that North Sea Oil is a major contributor to the Scottish economy and also that there is considerable debate about the reliability of Scottish economic data as presented by Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) as discussed extensively on Prof. Richard Murphy’s TRUK blog. Rather than looking at Scotland I have looked at the UK as a whole and the GDP data as available at the World Bank. There are two issues which will distort the comparison. The UK regional GDP is very variable with London and the South East being much wealthier than the rUK (the UK minus London and the SE). Indeed the richest NUTS2 area  in the EU is Inner London West with a staggering 580% of the average EU GDP per Inhabitant (PPS), the poorest area in the UK is West Wales and the Valleys at a miserly 68%. The GDP per capita of London is more than twice that of the rUK. The inclusion of London and the SE will play very much in the UKs favour whereas in Ireland’s case it is well known that because of the large number of multinationals and the fact that a considerable fraction (estimates can be up to 20%) of the GDP goes directly overseas it does not contribute to the domestic economy. This will go some way to cancel out the disparity caused by London and the SE.

In Fig. 2 the ratio of the Irish to UK GDP data is plotted starting at 1960  and ending in December 2015 (the first and last dates for which data is available on the World Bank Statistics). Given that Irish GDP grew by 5.2% in 2016 as compared to 1.8% for the UK and the 2017 differential growth figures seem broadly similar the current disparity in economic performance is even greater than that displayed at the end point on the graph. The most obvious conclusion is that Ireland has done dramatically better than the UK with the GDP growing from under 3% of that of the UK to over 11%. Some of this is because the Irish population has been growing faster than that of the UK from a little under 3 M (5.4% of the UK) in 1960 to 4.75 M (7.3% of the UK) currently, but more importantly the GDP per capita has risen dramatically.  Up to the mid to late 1990s the GDP per capita was lower in Ireland than the UK and it was argued by some that Ireland was simply playing catch-up, however there is no sign that the Irish growth is slowing down. There were about five bad years after the global financial crisis in 2008 but as is typical coming out of a major recession, the Irish economy has rebounded strongly.

Fig. 2 World Bank GDP data from 1960 till end 2015

 

Despite the bank bailout after the global financial crisis causing considerable resentment to the EU, the Irish blame the banks first, the Government who mistook the situation as being a liquidity rather than a solvency crisis (giving the Banks a copper bottomed bailout guarantee) and the EU third. Indeed satisfaction with EU membership is one of the highest in Europe. With EU membership Ireland has been transformed from one of the poorest countries in the EU 9 when it joined in 1973 to one of the richest.

Another indication of how well Ireland is doing is to look at the current position of Dublin, which as previously  stated was the second city on these islands in 1801 (when the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland was formed) , but not in the top ten in 1922 when Ireland left the UK. As shown in Fig 3. Dublin is now easily back in second place, comfortably exceeding  Manchester and Birmingham which vie with each other for the title of second city in the UK.

Fig 3 Major UK Metropolitan Areas, with Dublin as a comparison, adapted from the 2016 Cities in Europe Facts and Figures Atlas

 

Brexit is viewed with a mixture of disbelief, horror, pity, ridicule and schadenfreude by the Irish. There is a belief that two major driving forces behind Brexit include a very negative form of English Nationalism and a dangerously delusional belief in British exceptionalism. There is also a near universal view that Brexit will be negative for the UK, beyond reasonable doubt very negative and an overlying  worry that it may affect the Irish economy adversely. There is also a horror at the seemingly inept performance of the UK negotiating team and the sadness that it more resembles a Shakespearean or Greek Tragedy rather than a comedy.

In brief, out of the UK (1801-1921), Ireland has done much better; there is close to zero interest in leaving the EU and rejoining the UK or even a looser affiliation. According to the 2017 Red-C poll “Almost 90 per cent of people agree that Ireland should remain as part of the EU, while 87 per cent believe that Ireland has benefited from being a member of the EU”. This EU support is even greater than immediately after the  Brexit referendum when four out of five people (83%) believed that Ireland should remain a part of the EU despite the UK’s vote to leave. Only 16 per cent believed that Ireland should follow the UK out of the EU.

Contrasting Export Trade between NI and the Republic

Trade figures seems to be compiled differently by the various statistics agencies and where there is broad agreement there are some differences in the finer figures. The Republic has a much larger economy than the North, and this is reflected in terms of trade volumes. The NI assembly report as shown in Fig.4 has the total exports at £7.8bn in 2016 whereas the total value of exports from the Republic was €116.9bn in the same year. It might be argued that the figures are not directly comparable as trade in goods from NI to Britain are important, particularly in a United Ireland scenario. These are estimated to be c £13 bn.

Fig. 4 NI Exports 2015 and 16

 

Inter Trade Ireland has the 2015 cross border trade in manufacturing valued as €1.83bn North to South and €1.57bn South to North.  Total trade between the South and the UK however is about 10 times greater at €15.6bn and was about 13% of total exports. (In contrast the UK accounted for about 50% of Irish exports in 1973). Fig. 5 shows the overall destinations for Irish trade for 2016 from the MIT Observatory of Economic Complexity. In recent years comparative exports to the UK have been growing at a slower rate than exports to the EU and the US. For most of the past 5 years Belgium/Luxembourg has been the the most important EU trading partner with the UK a close second. Exports to Belgium tend to be high value goods such as pharmaceuticals, whereas the agribusiness sector relies far more on the UK, indeed it is estimated that the agribusiness sector exports about 40% of the total to the UK.  The US is the most important single country, which is a worry for the Irish economy given Trump’s America First policy.

Fig. 5 Irish trading partners in 2016 from the MIT OED visualisation tool.

 

In summary

  • The South is more important to the North than visa versa in terms of trade. Whereas 31% of NI exports go to the South, only 1.3% of Irish exports go to the North.
  • East-West trade flows to Britain from the island of Ireland are much more important than North-South flows being nearly an order of magnitude greater.
  • The UK is still a significant trading partner for Ireland particularly in the agribusiness sector. It has however been in relative decline.

 

The Cyprus Experience

Cyprus is a divided Island, with the smaller North East corner having a Turkish ethos but with the bulk of the Island being Greek in character. It is also part of the EU. There are of course differences with Northern Ireland, according to Wikipedia:  Northern Cyprus (Turkish: Kuzey Kıbrıs, Greek: Βόρεια Κύπρος), officially the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC; Turkish: Kuzey Kıbrıs Türk Cumhuriyeti), is a self-declared state that comprises the northeastern portion of the island of Cyprus. Recognised only by Turkey, Northern Cyprus is considered by the international community to be part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Reunification has different issues in Cyprus as to Ireland. The complexities of the issue are difficult to understand completely as an outsider but in 2004 there was a joint reunification referendum under the Annan Plan, which went pro unification in the North with 65% in favour but soundly rejected by the South with 76% against. Could a similar scenario happen in Ireland?

As discussed earlier in this article there are a number of pull factors towards a United Ireland. Ultimately the success or not of Brexit for NI is likely to be the key factor. Optimists will look at the large British market as an opportunity for the NI agribusiness sector if it gets more difficult for EU countries to sell to the UK. Pessimists will look at the 219% tariff slapped on sales of Bombardier aircraft in the United States as a sign of things to come and the fact that WTO rules will dramatically cut the cost of tariffs on many agricultural products and it may be very difficult for NI farmers to make a living. Also direct EU payments to farmers represent 87% of annual farm income in NI. The pros and cons of Brexit should all be clearer within a few years and by 2022 hopefully the dust will have settled and a border referendum can be had with a fuller understanding of the facts.

I was in Ireland last week and it was clear that there is limited enthusiasm for a United Ireland in the South. The dislike of the DUP came as no surprise (there is a belief that that are still living in the 17th century), but SF are not much liked either amongst the older generation (that’s sadly me, my friends and acquaintances these days). Their former PIRA links fill Southerners of my generation with deep mistrust. Financially the North is currently a liability rather than an asset but the major worry is the Loyalist community. I heard comments such as “Ireland will become as ungovernable as Belgium” and an even starker “We don’t want them”. Of course Brexit may go well for NI and the question of Unification may not arise in the South as the North may reject it. Also whereas there needs to be a referendum in the North, it is not the case in the south where the GFA wording is more ambiguous; a strong premier may simply push things through the Dail. There is a strong romantic attachment to a United Ireland, but the reality is much more complicated. There is a possibility however that just at the time the majority of Northerners want reunification they may be rejected by the South; more like Cypriot than German reunification.

Comments

  1. Paul Hunt -

    This is a magnificent post, but I fear it will be of little interest to most readers in Britain. Indeed you have noted that most people in England would prefer if NI were to just go away. It’s not hugely different for many people in the South. And you’ve noted that as well – even if you seem a little surprised by it. I’ve pointed out previously that the fine-tuned political, economic and fiscal balance in the South among the various powerful and influential rent-seeking interest groups and between them and the self-righteous tribunes of those on low incomes and of those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged simply could not cope with the need to replace the huge subsidisation of the North currently being provided by people in Britain.

    There are, of course, loud public declarations of the desire to see a united Ireland, but this is just typical of the quintessential Irish characteristic of projecting optical illusions, of suspending disbelief for as long as possible, of operating in a “lets’ pretend” mode (or operating “mar ea” in the Irish language) and of concealing reality until it finally bursts through. The inflation of the triple property, banking and fiscal bubbles up until 2008 when they all burst is a perfect example of this behaviour. A revised set of optical illusions is now being projected. But it’s now becoming that bit harder to continue suspending disbelief for as long as previously. But it’s little use telling that to the optical illusionists.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Hi Paul
      there is much to agree with. An UI was always a hypothetical dream in that many of the CNR community would have voted to remain in the UK and any prospect of an UI was always about 25 years in the future. The romantic notion of a UI may be exposed to the harsh light of day after Brexit. I agree completely that the property bubble in Ireland before the crash was extraordinary. I thought it would be obvious to a 3 year old that it would end in disaster but popping over to Dublin every 6 months or so from England allowed me to see things from a more objective view. In an odd way Brexit seems similar; a sort of mass delusion that things will be wonderful.

      I’ve said before that every bar in the Palace of Westminster (and far beyond) would flow with champagne for at least a week if NI voted for a United Ireland. I suspect the UK would offer a gradual wind down process to cushion the financial burden. For me the Loyalists are a greater issue. Nile had a very interesting comment on a previous post indicating that they were not sane by 21st century standards and their potential for disruption is enormous.

    2. Sean Danaher -

      Hi Paul
      If I can also add there is a lack of interest in England about the Irish in general, it is very difficult to put a finger on it, but there seems to be an almost intangible belief that nothing good will come from Ireland and a taboo in thinking about it. This is not on a personal level – I have seldom felt any personal prejudice, it is far more intangible. Seaan O’Neill (the blogger rather than the 16th cent king of Ulster) use the analogy of Terry Pratchett’s Death in the Diskworld Novels “Death is not invisible; however, most people’s brains refuse to acknowledge him for who he is” – I’m not sure this is quite right but your “optical illusion” analogy might equally apply here.

      Regarding ambivalence towards a UI of course it has been there for decades. When I lived in Dublin during the ’70s and very early ’80s there was a lot of pub talk about taking a chainsaw to the border and towing NI into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

      What is new I think Is that the two comments I quoted came from heavyweight people; a senior academic in the DCU Business School and a retired senior Civil Servant in the Irish Department of Education (with substantial interaction with her Northern counterparts).

      It might be best to put off a border poll for say 20-25 years by which time there is likely to be a strong Nationalist majority. An ultra-green NI would be a shock to the Unionists. “When you are used to privileged equality seems like oppression” – the dynamics could prove very interesting.

  2. Paul Hunt -

    Mant thanks for your comments. The reality unfortunately is that, if Jacob Rees-Mogg is sometimes referred to as the MP for the 18th Century, the DUP is made up of MPs for the 17th Century – and for the most bigoted, cruel and intolerant aspects of that century. They and SF deserve each other and it is far better for all other inhabitants on these islands if they can be quarantined where they are. What is worse is that political governance in Britain is undergoing a collective nervous breakdown – and the mix of delusion and incompetence on the opposition front bench is even more frightening. However, these things go in cycles and while citizens retain the ultimate politcal authority it will come right eventually. But it will take a long time to heal and repair the unnecessary self-inflicted harm.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      The 17th Century is fascinating and is a prime example as to how the victors get to rewrite history. Prof. Scott Sowerby (Harvard) has done a lot of work in getting to the truth and in “Making Toleration; The Repealers and the Glorious Revolution”

      “In the reign of James II, minority groups from across the religious spectrum, led by the Quaker William Penn, rallied together under the Catholic King James in an effort to bring religious toleration to England. Known as repealers, these reformers aimed to convince Parliament to repeal laws that penalized worshippers who failed to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England. Although the movement was destroyed by the Glorious Revolution, it profoundly influenced the post-revolutionary settlement, helping to develop the ideals of tolerance that would define the European Enlightenment.

      Based on a rich array of newly discovered archival sources, Scott Sowerby’s groundbreaking history rescues the repealers from undeserved obscurity, telling the forgotten story of men and women who stood up for their beliefs at a formative moment in British history. By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, Making Toleration also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.”

      The Anglo-Irish historian I referred to in my article has done a lot of work in the NI context on this; of course the major battles of the war between James II and William of Orange happened on Irish soil in 1690 (Boyne) and 1691 (Aughrim). His conclusions are possibly even more emphatic than Sowerby – the Book is currently at the publisher and he has agreed to write a post for PP, but he thinks that it was a tragedy for both Ireland and Britain that William won.

  3. Dipper -

    “There is a belief that two major driving forces behind Brexit include a very negative form of English Nationalism and a dangerously delusional belief in British exceptionalism.”

    Being an English Leaver can be frustrating. You are all looking in the wrong direction. You need to stop looking at England and the English, and trying to explain this in terms of English Nationalism, and start looking at Germany and the Germans. Since unification Germany has become a stronger and more ambitious voice, and has shown ruthlessness in implementing its will on Europe (see, for example, Greece). In the “negotiations” Cameron asked Merkel to be allowed to control his country’s border, and Germany said no. If you are looking for international humiliation of the UK, it is right there in that refusal. We were told by Remainers at the time of the vote that the European Commission and federalists like Juncker were irrelevant and the real power lay with the nations, but ever since then it has become clear what the agenda of the EU is, and that is a federal super-state. Merkel had every opportunity to slap down Juncker and Verhofstadt, and she never did. And believe me a nation of 60 million were watching that very closely. And now the chain of command is clear. Merkel informs Juncker of what she wants, and Juncker implements it, and the other “heads of state” (in reality regional mayors) have no say. The notion that the UK could remain a member of the EU but not participate in the primary goal of the union – unification – is being shown to be completely untenable.

    What should be worrying Ireland now is not the UK’s attitude to Ireland but Germany’s. How long do you think you can hang on to that special rate of Corporation tax? And without special arrangements, what fate awaits you, perched on the outer rim of the EU, whilst all the action takes place in them heartland?

    From an Irish perspective, surely it should worry you that you are represented in negotiations by someone who does not think your nation should exist as an independent nation? Juncker has made his distaste for nations as a concept, and hence by implication the existence of the Republic of Ireland, abundantly clear. So good luck with that.

    And as for the border and the pickle that the island of Ireland now finds itself in, well, perhaps the time to think about that was whilst the “negotiations” were taking place. And as for the notion that this should be an issue for the UK in the negotiations, No. Ireland is now negotiating with the UK the terms of exit of the UK from the EU. If you are concerned about the border post a bad exit, then how about negotiating a decent exit deal? And if your fellow EU nations won’t negotiate that for you on your behalf, then what does that tell you about how the rest of the EU views Ireland?

    1. Sean Danaher -

      I’m sorry I think your analysis is fundamentally flawed on so many levels it is difficult to know where to start. The EU was set up precisely to stop larger nations throwing their weight around. I agree the Euro has particular structural problems and being Irish have been very much on the sharp end and would agree with you on this. Regarding Greece in that the Germans had to put up the lions share of the bailout, they had the major say but the Greek situation is a tragedy. Janis Varoufakis the Greek Finance Minister at the time is very much a stay in the EU and reform person rather than leave.

      Regarding borders you are asking the wrong question. You should be asking why the existing free movement rules are fine for 27/28 members and not working for the UK. “The rules that define the permitted extent of Freedom of Movement within the European Union allow very much more control than the UK currently exercises. Working EU citizens are allowed in but non-economically active EU citizens can only stay longer than three months if they have sufficient finance and take out a comprehensive sickness insurance policy. Benefit/welfare tourism is illegal and EU citizens who have not been working have no rights to benefits.” http://outsidethebubble.net/2016/12/06/massive-negligence-by-theresa-may-when-home-secretary/ Why also did Blair allow Poles to come to the UK immediately after accession rather than applying the seven year brake allowable? Regarding control of border the UK was asked for specific examples of areas badly hit by the EU but was unable to come up with any. My analysis is that Cameron and Osbourne were being totally duplicitous. The believed EU migrants were very good for the economy and simultaneous starved the Home Office of money so it couldn’t implement border controls properly, while pandering to the UKIP voter with their arbitrary 10s of thousands immigration rule.

      I’m sorry assuming Merkel controls things is delusional and verging on paranoia and will stress more strongly that the EU was specifically structured to prevent another Hitler like figure from dictating terms.

      Regarding Irish Corporation tax, I would refer you to the Irish Economy Blog http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2017/09/30/europe-ireland-and-taxes/ by Prof Kevin O’Rourke (Oxford but formerly at Trinity, Harvard and UCD and a leading expert in the field): The good news is that Ireland doesn’t have to do anything on taxes that it doesn’t want to. On the other hand, it might be prudent for us to have more to say on the issue than “No, no, no”. If we don’t get pro-actively involved in these (and other) debates, we can hardly blame others for setting the political agenda.

      Regarding being the only English speaking country in the single market with very strong US connections I suspect Ireland will attract an even larger fraction of FDI than before. I have severe worries regarding the agricultural sector (but that is only 2% or so of the Irish Economy; the UK figure is 0.6%). I have little doubt Ireland will prosper in complete contrast to the UK.

      I’m very much more comfortable with the EU, than May’s contemptuous treatment of Scotland. The EU is a mixture of people who favour Nation states and federalists. The dynamics will be fascinating and the equilibrium will evolve.

      On the Irish border, the EU position is the Irish position and is considered by many as the greatest Irish diplomatic triumph of the past 30 years. It tells us unlike the UK which largely views Ireland as a vassal state; (David Davis regularly referred to the Irish border as an internal UK border before he was brought up to speed) the EU really cares about us.

      1. Dipper -

        Well we will just have to agree to disagree, but the UK found out when things really mattered that Germany did throw its weight around and our opinion did not matter. And I seem to remember a small matter of an Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty which you had to rerun until you got the right result.

        There are lots of criticisms of Blair, Cameron, and Osborne that can be made, but the reality of the position in 2016 was that the UK was facing a massive population increase projected to be 25% in around 50 years. The only EU country with a comparative increase is Sweden. The UK had become the place for low-wage contract work, and simply this was not paying for itself. This glorious period of prosperity and growth left most UK workers on lower incomes (uniquely in the EU) and with massive housing costs largely due to the switch from owner-occupation to buy-to-let multiple occupancy to meet the booming demand. With free labour there was no incentive to improve productivity and consequently we have seen no improvement in productivity during the whole period of FOM.

        Promises of economic doom from professional economists come with a significant baggage. We were told not joining the Euro would leave the UK in the slow lane and we outpaced the Eurozone in practically every year to the referendum. Since the referendum we have seen a rise in wages as labour becomes in short supply against everything we were told. Add to that an increase in training places for UK nurses and doctors and a slight dip of housing costs and so far it is all good news.

        Good luck with your new friends in Europe. If you need more smart workers then there are many coming from Greece as that country’s spiral into a decline as the debt increases and the population decreases continues unabated. As you say it will be fascinating to see how the equilibrium between nation states and Federalists evolves but my money is on the Federalists. I will be keeping an eye on developments in Sweden. I hope it all works out for you. I remain completely positive that once we are out of this sclerotic bureaucratic centralised top-down low-growth union the UK will do just fine.

        1. Sean Danaher -

          As you say we will have to wait and see. I don’t share your optimism regarding the UK. I do hope it works for the UK also.

        2. harmlessdrudge -

          How often does this drivel need to be rebutted?

          The EU has no authority to call a referendum in Ireland. The Irish rejected the Lisbon treaty because they declined to accept the loss of permanent representation on the Commission, which was planned for Ireland and other small countries as part of streamlining decision making. The govt made it clear that there would be no 2nd referendum on the original terms.

          In due course the plans to remove Ireland’s Commissioner was dropped and some other issues of concern, including Ireland’s traditional neutrality, were resolved, and then the Lisbon treaty was passed. So much for the EU bullying Ireland and telling it to vote again, a lie repeated endlessly by uninformed Brits and British tabloids who are regarded with derision in Ireland and the rest of Europe for their bigotry and wilful ignorance.

          1. Sean Danaher -

            Harmless
            of course you are right and thanks for taking it up. The Brexiteers take a Newt Gingritch approach “And that what people feel about an issue is more important than what the actual facts behind the issue are.”

            If Cameron had taken up Enda’s offer of tactical help during the referendum we would not be in this mess. the hubris of the Brexiteers is boundless.

  4. Dipper -

    On the Irish border, the EU position is the Irish position and is considered by many as the greatest Irish diplomatic triumph of the past 30 years.

    Seriously, this is nuts. Ireland should just have kept quiet and worked with the UK to muddle along. The last thing anyone in England wants to be doing is start checking what is coming and going across the border. We would have turned a blind eye to just about anything except the most egregious breaches. But now you have gone and invited the French in. They will insist on looking in every glove box, every handbag, and checking everything you have meets their regulations. They will insist inspectors record everything, and insist on inspecting the inspectors. And you will have to pay for handsomely for it. Allowing the French to negotiate a soft border for you is to guarantee you will have a hard border. You will rue the day you ever let the French loose on your internal business.

      1. Dipper -

        Why ignore my comments regarding the French? They operate on a very different basis to the UK (and I suspect Ireland). France has a very different bureaucratic and legal system, which works by central regulation and conformance to standards. It is a very different approach to that of the UK. Famously, in France everything is forbidden unless it is permitted, whereas in the UK everything is permitted unless it is forbidden. I’m not saying it is better or worse – there is lots that is impressive about France – but trying to mix a UK approach and a French approach is like trying to mix oil and water as the current negotiations are demonstrating. If you let France in to negotiate your border they will do it the French way (or as they like to say, the right way) and that will mean endless form filling and inspection. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

        And now you are going to let the EU screw up the Irish dairy industry? In the name of what? Remember that under the EU regulation and inspection regime we had beef that was in fact horse meat so it cannot be for reasons of health and safety. And there’s all those Irish exports that travel by lorry across UK motorways. It isn’t the UK that is putting a stop to that despite the A14 being jammed solid with Irish exports, it is the EU. And these folks are your friends?

        1. Peter May -

          I’m afraid that the idea that in France everything is forbidden unless it is permitted is an urban myth. It is true that the state is more controlling in theory but that is based on the Roman (Catholic) legal system rather than English Common Law.
          The idea is of course that Common Law – precisely because it is common – is more likely to be complied with than top down Roman law. Which is still true but modern life means there is now much less difference – indeed Britain in spite of habeas corpus – imprisons far more people than the French.

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