WHILE we wished that this situation would not have happened in the first place, Britain’s departure from the European Union is becoming more of a reality and the talks to bring about Brexit will begin in earnest next month after the British general election. Last weekend, at an extraordinary meeting of the European Council, the other 27 members of the EU, Ireland included, agreed their negotiating stance, which seems tough but fair and addresses Ireland’s main concerns.
Britain cannot be seen to emerge with a deal that leaves them looking better-off outside the EU, otherwise there will be a rush of other countries for the exit door. However, the decision of its people has to be respected and cordial relations need to be maintained.
This is especially important for the Republic of Ireland as Britain’s nearest neighbour and biggest trading partner and because of the overriding necessity to maintain cross-border agreements between us and Northern Ireland that underpin the peace process, which is working but still fragile and can never be taken for granted. Therefore, it is good to note that the EU’s Brexit negotiating position takes this special relationship into account and will be at pains to protect it.
Sadly, the reality is that Ireland will be hit by the inevitable economic pain of Brexit, with our agri food sector set to suffer and, by extension, rural communities.