State in position to benefit from Brexit folly, says AIB chairman

Leave campaign was massive lie led by chancers and opportunists, says Richard Pym

AIB chairman Richard Pym: “Ireland is open for business, anchored in the European Union, and a very attractive location for inward investment.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

AIB chairman Richard Pym: “Ireland is open for business, anchored in the European Union, and a very attractive location for inward investment.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Ireland is in a unique position to benefit from Britain’s “folly” in voting to leave the European Union, according to Richard Pym, chairman of AIB.

Mr Pym, a UK citizen, delivered a scathing attack on British policy at the annual congress of the Association of European Journalists in Kilkenny on Friday.

“As a British citizen, chairing an Irish bank, previously chairing a Swedish bank, with a family in America, spreading my time between three countries and paying taxes in two, I probably come close to being the global citizen described by the British prime minister in September as ‘a citizen of nowhere and knowing nothing of citizenship’.

“I’ve only met Mrs May once, a long time ago, and I’m sorry if I upset her. Coming from the prime minister of a country that wants to be a leader in world trade, these are extraordinarily ill-judged remarks,” said Mr Pym.

He added that a country that what was once one of the most open and tolerant societies in the world had taken a big step backwards.

“Ireland was very keen that Britain stayed in the European Union. But it is now in a unique position to benefit from Britain’s folly after a period of adjustment in the economy. Ireland is open for business, anchored in the European Union, and a very attractive location for inward investment. Even after Brexit we forecast growth of over 3 per cent next year.”

Turning to the newly appointed British ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett, who also spoke at the conference, Mr Pym said the ambassador represented a government that basically had no policy on anything concerning Brexit.

“The British government wants a period of reflection behind closed doors as it went into the referendum with scandalously no preparation for a Brexit, and is now trying to figure something out. Business is crying out for clarity. And now parliament might have the power to challenge the executive but subject to a further court case,” he said.

Mr Pym said that unlike Ireland the British government would go into Brexit with its public finances in poor shape.

‘Massive lie’

During the British referendum campaign, he said, fantastic promises had been made to those who knew little about economics or politics but it all amounted to a massive lie. More thoughtful voices in British politics were now calling for a second referendum on the terms of Brexit.

“The electorate voted for a departure, not on the destination. They are surely allowed a vote on whether the deal eventually proposed is better than the current arrangement of staying in. They certainly won’t be getting anything close to the campaign promises.

“The Brexit campaign was led by a group of chancers and opportunists, it is now time for the real leaders to stand up.”

He said if Britain continued with its madness Ireland would need to deliver infrastructure and housing improvements to encourage British firms to relocate and encourage even more foreign direct investment into this country.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan told the congress there had been deep disappointment in Ireland at the British decision to leave the EU but no-one had any doubt that it was in this country’s interests to remain a committed member of the union.

“Ireland has no doubt as to which team it will be on once negotiations start – the EU team. In the negotiations, we will be serving Irish interests – and those interests include a strong, cohesive, dynamic and outward-looking European Union.”