The Government must consider building "high-cost" post-Brexit projects, including a proposed electricity interconnector to France at a cost of almost €1 billion, DCU economics professor Edgar Morgenroth has said.
In a debate on the UK's departure from the EU, the academic suggested that the State must begin thinking about the implications of Brexit on the country, and planning major long-term infrastructural projects to prepare the country for Brexit and the possibility of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“We have spent far too much time thinking about what London is doing and not enough time thinking about the sort of issues that we are facing,” he said during the panel discussion at the Institute of International and European Affairs, a Dublin think tank.
He suggested the Government needed to “change priorities” and consider changes coming “down the track”.
He said the UK’s exit would mean that Ireland would no longer be connected to the European electricity network, and there would be a need for an interconnector to France after the UK leaves the EU.
The proposed Celtic Interconnector linking Ireland and France, which would be the first electricity connection with mainland Europe, is already in the planning and is due to be completed by 2025.
The professor said the State may need to consider changing or expanding the country's ports and building additional roads from Dublin to the port in Rosslare and to Sligo and on to Donegal to avoid hard border crossings post-Brexit.
“These have all very high cost implications but we haven’t really thought about that,” he said.
The chances of the UK leaving the EU at the end of next month in a disorderly Brexit has increased after the UK parliament rejected a proposed divorce deal, and there is no consensus at Westminster for an alternative deal.
The British parliament rejected the divorce deal over fears that the backstop would keep the UK tied to EU economic rules after Brexit if no other solution was found to avoid a hard Irish border.
Katy Hayward, a Queen's University Belfast academic, and Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors in London, said they believed that a solution could be found by including additional text in the withdrawal agreement to allay UK concerns about the contentious backstop .
Ms Hayward, who has testified before UK parliamentary committees on Brexit, said there was “potential for some form of words” to be added to the agreement underlining the assurances already contained within it, which are “never actually discussed”.
The EU could offer to review the requirement for the backstop by a joint EU-UK committee every six months in “legally binding” text in the backstop.
She said one of the "illogical truths" around Brexit was that she expected Mrs May would essentially come to rely on political centrists and Labour MPs, not Brexiteers, to get the withdrawal deal passed.
Ms Renison said additional wording in the backstop may take the same "structure" as "the text that sat alongside" the EU-Canadian trade deal after the parliament of the Belgium region of Wallonia objected to that agreement.
Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, a former Irish ambassador to the UK, said this kind of solution was possible with two conditions. “We know what the British want and there is some satisfaction that if Mrs May gets it that she can carry it through the Commons.”