Brexit v Ireland, some important facts
Senior Tories rarely agree on anything these days. One issue that draws them together across the Leave-Remain schism is shared contempt for “overseas”, that alien landscape full of foreigners. Contempt for Johnny foreigner used to be confined to the lunatic fringe of little England, and mainly directed at Asian and African immigrants. Since the referendum of 2016 hatred of foreigners has become more widespread and respectable in Tory England. Europeans are fair game and Ireland is now becoming a target (as is Scotland). Particular venom is directed at the Irish leader, Leo Varadkar who is guilty of numerous alien vices rolled into one, he is of Indian immigrant origin, he is gay and he’s Irish. It would be hard to imaging anyone more contemptible in Tory eyes.
The more Tories attack Varadkar the more his stock rises in Ireland. He has taken an energetic line in defence of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) which infuriates Tory headbangers. Several attacks have been launched by figures like Rees–Mogg who claims the Irish economy will be greatly damaged by Brexit. This sounds very much like a threat. The Irish should behave themselves and accept dictation from Westminster, like proper little colonials! They depend on the UK for their livelihood after all, don’t they? Actually; no, they don’t. The facts tell a very different story.
Ireland exports a wide range of products, including pharmaceuticals, computer technology and processed food, all over the world. Ireland’s largest market is the European Union, excluding the UK, which takes about 44% of all Irish exports. The UK, by comparison, accounts for 14% of Irish exports, roughly the same as Belgium!
The UK, on the other hand, has a substantial trade surplus with Ireland! In fact, Britain exports more to Ireland than it sells to China and India combined. That is quite a surprise to many. The UK sold about $5billion more to Ireland than Ireland sold to the UK in the last year for which comparative data is available (2016). What’s more the products being exported to Ireland are easily replaced by products from the EU or elsewhere. The UK’s chief export to Ireland is refined petroleum, which can be as easily sourced in the EU or north America. Amazingly the UK exports large volumes of packaged medicaments to Ireland even though Ireland is a major producer of pharmaceutical products in its own right. The UK also exports large quantities of household products and processed foods to Ireland even though Ireland is a major food producing country.
This is truly astonishing and arises mainly because some large British-owned retailers, like Tesco and M & S operate in Ireland and they tend to source the bulk of their stock from the UK. There are several major Irish & EU retailers in Ireland, Dunnes Stores, Supervalu/ Musgraves, Aldi & Lidl and it would not be difficult for Irish consumers to drive past the Brexit retailers (“Brextailers?”), & shop in EU-friendly stores.
The hard fact is that Ireland has not been watching trade flows with the same nationalistic passion as BrexTories but it may have to do so very soon. If Brexit causes the introduction of a USA/Canada type border in Ireland, as threatened by Mrs Mayhem, with armed security guards and watchtowers the Irish will have to rethink their open, free-trade policy with the UK. If Ireland were to think seriously about where it sources pharmaceuticals, refined petroleum or processed foods, there are numerous alternatives where these can be sourced tariff free, after Brexit, in Ireland and the rest of the EU.
If there is to be a hard border between Ireland and the UK this would not necessarily be a trading disaster for Ireland. There might be some additional shipping time in bypassing the overland routes through Wales. There are existing sea ferry routes direct from Ireland to the continent and these could be expanded without much difficulty. Ireland would probably lose some exports to the UK because of tariffs and border delays but these could be more than compensated by replacing UK imports with home-produced products or EU sourced alternatives.
In short the Brextory view that Ireland is heavily reliant on the UK is as much a lie as most of the other Brexit arguments. Ireland is more than capable of cutting links with Britain and flourishing in worldwide markets, as a sovereign member of the EU. Brextories are lost in a miasma of lies and cannot see the facts which are visible to anyone who looks. Britain is cutting itself off from the world and it is Britain that will suffer most.