Brexit will ‘legitimise’ Ireland reunification calls says expert
Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a miraculous last-minute Brexit trade deal with the EU days before the transition period was up. But, just weeks into the UK’s new life outside of the bloc, Ireland’s relationship with Britain is once again causing friction. The Northern Ireland Protocol was intended to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, and it created a metaphorical border down the Irish Sea instead.
Northern Ireland will continue to follow the trade rules of the EU’s single market and customs union to avoid tension with the Republic of Ireland, while supposedly still having “unfettered access” to the rest of the UK, as promised by the Prime Minister.
However, delays for trade arriving into the region have triggered outrage and fear that republican sentiment will start to rise, especially if Northern Ireland feels it was thrown under the bus in Brexit negotiations.
As the UK is already dealing with the initial economic blip from leaving the bloc alongside the staggering costs of the pandemic, a glance at the City of London’s future shows that Dublin may be poised to steal its crown as the financial hub of Europe.
Speaking to the Gold Newsletter podcast, Economist Maurizio Liberante explained that the capital of Ireland now has a cultural advantage over London.
Taoiseach MIchael Martin and the City of London
How the Northern Ireland Protocol operates
He said: “At the moment, the Republic [of Ireland] has a good opportunity to pivot, to push, for the likes of financial services or the like to base themselves in Dublin.
“I’d say that’s because the Republic of Ireland is now the only English-speaking Common Law country in the whole of the European Union.
“Obviously English-speaking alone is a huge asset in terms of having world-class universities, training people in different disciplines, and then trade with any country — even within the EU — I think they will continue to use English in all sorts of capacities.
“Then with the US it is obviously a major benefit.”
The newly-elected US President, Joe Biden, has previously indicated he would prioritise a future trade deal with the EU over the UK, partly due to his Irish roots.
This sentiment was reflected when Washington confirmed that the President had made his first phone call to Mr Johnson after his inauguration — but, the White House removed any suggestion of a future UK-US trade deal when describing what the two world leaders had discussed.
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Podcast host Fergus Hodgson then asked if Dublin could realistically become the new financial centre for the EU.
As the founder of Economics Alumni and the Discourse Institute, Mr Liberante replied: “Financial services are a whole other aspect.
“It seems like there’s a lot of money and human capital fleeing London at the moment.
“And that’s a consequence of there not being a bespoke financial services being negotiated [between the UK and EU] and implemented alongside the negotiations that were happening around trade and things.”
However, he did concede that the UK could maintain some power in the investment world by reforming itself.
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Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
He said: “With the right leadership, the UK could become something quite unique and powerful, and that’s been seen by promises made by Boris Johnson’s Government in this wave of green investment, and biological technologies.
“There is merit in some of those — but it is the right leadership and the right Government [needed] to continue that and push it through.”
The friction with Northern Ireland and its role in between Ireland and the UK has been an obstacle to trade negotiations ever since the EU referendum.
As Northern Ireland comprises just two percent of the UK population, it “barely registered” in the initial debate about Brexit, according to Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, John McDowell.
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In an essay for ‘The Future of Brexit Britain’, he explained: “Where it did [register], it was simply assumed that the government of Ireland would soon see that its interests were best served in cooperating closely with the UK and acting as a ‘helpful’ accomplice in negotiating the future relationship with the EU.
“Not only was this a profound misjudgement of Irish public opinion, it also failed to take into account the fact that, through its pooling of sovereignty with the EU26, Ireland found itself (possible for the first time ever in Anglo-Irish relations) in a position of strength vis-a-vis the United Kingdom.”
He also noted that in light of Brexit, “it is now unionism which finds itself almost literally at sea”, in reference to the metaphorical Irish Sea border.
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