The Republic of Ireland between an economic boom and the British rebus

The levels of economic growth are again those achieved in 2007, but, after the Brexit, the neighboring country will become extra-EU. Although the Irish are the most Europeanist on the continent, the market in the Republic is very integrated with the United Kingdom (part of which, Northern Ireland, is on the island). 

Photo credit Aldo Ciummo

Dublin aims to protect trade, however, when it comes to trade, the European Union decides as a single bloc. While Denmark and the Netherlands are trying to mediate, France and Germany are tempted to press ahead with European integration, also the Central European countries are near to the 'continental' group’s stance, more than expected.

And so Ireland really needs to redefine its role quickly: Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (in office since June 14th) does his best to convince Europe to hold near the UK, taking into account that barriers to trade will make it impossible to rely too much on business with London. During an official trip to Canada from 20th to 22nd August, the Irish Prime Minister visited his colleague, Justin Trudeau, the Irish immigrants’ associations and economic organizations. Now the Republic must value more than ever the quality of its exports and every contact provided by its communities abroad: by 2025, its diplomatic representations will double.

Northern Ireland’s affairs are becoming, once more, internal problems for Downing Street and also for Dublin: on August 22nd James Brokenshire (British Secretary for Northern Ireland) met Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney. Meanwhile, in Belfast, the autonomous province’s administration is in crisis: across years, the 1998’s Good Friday Agreement urged Catholics and Republican political parties to collaborate with their Protestants and Unionist rivals, playing the card of common EU membership enjoyed both by the Republic of Ireland and by the United Kingdom. In the June 23rd 2016 referendum Brexit won 51,9 to 49,1, but Ulster expressed a majority (56) favorable to stay in the EU, such as Scotland (62) unlike England and Wales that backed Brexit. A remarkable number of protestants (pro-British) has voted ‘Remain’ as did the great majority of (pro-Irish) republicans, overall aiming to protect the fragile peace process in the north, but also because the EU strongly supports agriculture and enterprise. The nearby Republic could of course just wait with concern for the UK vote’s outcome.

Eventually, the simultaneous entry of Eire and UK in Europe (1973) enhanced the Belfast economy (and that of Dublin too) thanks to a softening of borders previously dotted of guards and customs. So, long queues and custom duties had become just bad memories. Trade with the neighbouring country plays an important part in gaining employment levels similar to those registered in 1999, with unemployment falling to 5 percent, but Europe is crucial indeed to all these successes in the republic. Two weeks ago, the stockbroker Goodbody raised forecasts for domestic demand growth from 3,7 percent to 4,5 (2017) and from 3,6 to 4,3 (2018). The local economy is interwoven with that of the rest of the EU, this does not take away critical issues whose consequences are not yet entirely clear.


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