The UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner, closest neighbour, host to 383,000 Irish citizens; thousands from Wicklow, and our regular political ally. It’s vital that we act swiftly to minimise any potential damage to our national interests, work with the UK to help mitigate potential damage to their national interests, and explore potential political and economic opportunities arising.
It’s imperative that the existing close relationship, politically, socially and economically, between the UK and Ireland is maintained. We need to ensure that bilateral agreements are in place to facilitate the free movement of people, including for work, capital and goods between our nations. We need to work with the Northern Irish and UK political, economic and cultural institutions to ensure minimum disruption in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, we should be actively looking for way of strengthening this relationship in light of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. We also need to ensure there are no negative consequences for Irish citizens living in, working in, and travelling to the UK.
Sterling dropping so precipitously this morning is an example of the potential dangers to trade that we must act upon. Hopefully sterling will rebound, but its value at 10am represents an 18% fall in value since this time last year. Wicklow firms selling into the UK market now face prices 18% more expensive today than they were last June. Should this continue, it would likely have a strong negative impact on many of SMEs in Ireland. Analysis suggests that a 5% sterling depreciation would see a 1% fall in Ireland’s GDP.
Ireland is now the only English-speaking country in the EU. While we regret the UK’s decision to leave, it does present us with opportunities including the likelihood that some financial services in the UK will want to move to Ireland. It should also help in our efforts to secure and maintain foreign direct investment, particularly from English-speaking countries like the US and Canada. While the majority of these jobs would most likely come to Dublin, there is a significant opportunity in Wicklow also.
There needs to be urgent debate in the Oireachtas on the risks and opportunities presented by today’s UK vote. We need to know, immediately, what plans the government has in place. The Social Democrats are calling on the government to make a detailed and comprehensive announcement and allow for a debate in the Dáil today.