David McWilliams this week had a useful reminder of just how close Republic remains to the UK, and not just through the land border we all love to obsess on. About three or four years I began to hear the fresh accent of working class Dublin begin to make itself heard on London platforms again.
But as McWilliams notes, despite all the focus in Dublin on Europe, the human ties between the two islands have always been deep and fructive:
Here are the facts that form the basis of an honest economic inventory of the relationship. Some 9.8 million people flew between the Republic and Britain in 2011. This is just under 186,000 per week. Contrast this figure with the overall traffic of Germans coming here per year, which is 400,000.
After 30 years of tying our currency and criminally ignoring the sterling exchange rate in a bizarre effort to force more trade to Germany, officially neglected Britain is Ireland’s second largest export partner. We export around €14.265bn worth of goods and €15.052bn worth of services per year to the UK.
Ireland imports more from Britain than the rest of Europe combined: €16.686bn in goods and €10.108bn in services in 2011. Every week, €1bn of trade is carried out between Ireland and the auld enemy.
And the flow of people continues apace. The 2001 British census found there were 495,000 Irish people living in Britain, the highest concentration of Irish anywhere and a figure that no doubt has risen in the last decade.