Could Brexit be good for the EU?


Sir, – The case in favour of Brexit as the least damaging option for all parties, including Ireland, has been insufficiently aired in the debate. The critical issue is the euro, to which the future health of the Irish economy is intimately connected. David Cameron claimed in his November 10th letter to Donald Tusk that the UK “is not looking for a veto over what is done in the euro zone”. He then asked for seven principles to be made legally binding, many of which have the potential to constrain the euro. The use by the UK government of its veto to block the fiscal treaty in December 2011 indicated the true nature of British concern for the euro. Apart from showing an unwillingness to lend support to the euro zone in a time of crisis, the British action testified to two stubborn realities: the persistent antipathy to Europe expressed by a majority of the UK electorate; and an arguably unbridgeable ideological difference between London and Brussels in the matter of banking regulation.

Jacques Delors has said that the EU has a small engine and the UK a large brake. The message was clear – the European project cannot develop, and may even be at risk, while a Eurosceptic UK remains a member.

The Government has identified the Irish national interest with the UK remaining in the EU. The Opposition parties are backing this position.

An Irish diplomatic effort has been mobilised in support of the British negotiating effort, and there have been alarmist predictions of a 20 per cent drop in Anglo-Irish trade following a British exit, based on a worst-case scenario.

This one-sided debate marks a worrying departure from the traditional Irish policy of support for deepening EU and euro zone integration. No political party or organisation is asking the three most important questions regarding Brexit. What grounds are there for believing that the differences between the UK and the euro zone are reconcilable? What would be the damage to the Irish economy if the euro is critically weakened by a “compromise” with UK demands? What contingency plans exist in the event that the EU breaks up? – Yours, etc,


Irish Political Review Group,

Bray, Co Wicklow.