Brexit panic takes hold in Ireland

In just 250 words the Irish Times reports the scale of  Brexit panic in Ireland, north and south.

Promising “a huge campaign all over the world”, an informed source said a strong campaign is needed in the US, China and India and elsewhere to drive home the message that Ireland is separate from the UK and that it intends to stay in the EU.

 … Mr Cameron infuriated unionists yesterday when he warned travel restrictions may be needed between Northern Ireland and Britain if Brexit occurs – not just between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“If we were to leave – the leave campaigners want to make a big issue about our borders – we will have a land border between Britain outside the European Union and the Republic of Ireland inside the European Union,” he told the House of Commons.

“Therefore, you can only have new border controls between the Republic and Northern Ireland or, which I would regret hugely, you would have to have some sort of checks on people as they left Belfast or other parts of Northern Ireland to come to the rest of the UK.”

However, Democratic Unionist MP Gavin Robinson accused Mr Cameron of fear-mongering, while Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said any attempt to introduce travel restrictions on people from Northern Ireland – as happened during, and after the second World War – would “destroy the integrity of the United Kingdom”.

Meanwhile, former president Mary McAleese warned Irish people living in Britain could become “outsiders” after an exit vote. “If any Irish person thinks that they are exempt from the box called ‘immigrants’, let them think again.”

London editor Denis Staunton identifies the Norway option as the least worse for Ireland – though it’s opposed by the cabinet leavers led by Michael Gove.

As the campaign has progressed, most leading Leavers have ruled out an arrangement similar to Norway’s, which is part of the European Economic Area and has access to the single market. In return, Norway must pay into the EU budget, adopt most regulations from Brussels and accept the free movement of people.

For a campaign focused on the promise to control immigration, such an arrangement is unacceptable. But Remainers believe the economic shock they expect to follow Brexit could increase political pressure in Britain to retain access to the single market.

Of all the post-Brexit options, however, it would be the least disruptive for Britain’s EU partners, notably for Ireland.

The Common Travel Area could continue, there would be no need for a hardening of the Border and because economic damage to Britain would be limited, the knock-on impact would also be smaller.

Sky News reported that in the first five months of 2015, 1,518 Britons applied for an Irish passport.

In the same period this year that figure had increased by 25% to 1,901. Almost 1,000 were made in April alone.




Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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