Ireland may have to ‘review’ EU membership if Britain leaves

Ibec boss McCoy warns State would be unable to negotiate bi-lateral trade deal with Britain

Ireland may have to review its own membership of the EU if Britain votes to leave, according to Ibec’s chief executive Danny McCoy.

He said Ireland would be unable to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Britain in the event of a Brexit vote without loosening its ties with Brussels.

“I find it irrational to think that if something so fundamental as Brexit were to happen that we wouldn’t review our position and strategic interest,” he told the group’s annual chief executive conference in the RDS.

Contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy that says Britain needs Europe, Mr McCoy believes Europe needs Britain more.

“It’s under-acknowledged that, because of the population dynamics, Britain will soon be the biggest economy in Europe.

“They’re too big and too significant for the European Union to countenance losing. If there’s an accident and they go out, I think it will be the Europeans making the case to retain them in some looser fashion.”

Mr McCoy was among several speakers who grappled with the potential consequences for Ireland of Britain exiting the EU.

According to Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman, Ireland may find it harder to maintain its low corporate tax rate without Britain in Europe. This is because Ireland and Britain are united, perhaps for different reasons, in opposing EU moves for greater alignment on corporate tax.

“If Britain were out of that debate, Ireland would be at the mercy of the French, German and the Italians.”

In his address Mr Rachman spoke about the breakdown of consensus politics across the globe. He referred to the re-emergence of far-right nationalism in Europe, a more aggressive Russia and Donald Trump’s likely triumph in the Republican primaries.
He said for the business community these trends could lead to greater protectionism, with damaging consequences for international trade.

Earlier, Mr McCoy said increasing wages to make property more affordable would see Ireland forget one of the major lessons learned in the aftermath of the recession.

He warned against any return to a bubble economy and spiralling pay claims, saying the answer to Ireland’s housing issues lies elsewhere.

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