Donohoe says UK chose to ‘turn back the clock’ with Brexit vote

Minister tells US gathering regulatory convergence could be maintained across Ireland

Paschal Donohoe at the Fine Gael conference in Cavan at the weekend. The Minister  is on  a four-day visit to the east coast of the United States. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Paschal Donohoe at the Fine Gael conference in Cavan at the weekend. The Minister is on a four-day visit to the east coast of the United States. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Britain made a choice to “turn back the clock” on some of its closest international relationships by deciding to leave the European Union, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said.

Speaking in Washington DC on the first day of a four-day visit to the east coast of the United States, Mr Donohoe said that regulatory convergence could be maintained across the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Mr Donohoe said that although Britain has indicated it does not wish to stay in the single market, it could choose to remain in the customs union.

“If [the] Border was to be hard in nature…it could have a profound effect on what has been achieved in Northern Ireland,” he said at the Brooking Institution. “If they remain within the customs union more options open up in terms of the management.”

The European Commission escalated tensions with London last week after a leaked paper said Britain must remain in the single market and customs union to avoid a hard Border. It said there should be “no regulatory divergence” between the Republic and North to ensure no return of a hard Border.

Progress on the Border issue is necessary before the EU and Britain can move to the next phase of negotiations after the European Council summit in December.

Challenging

Asked if he believed sufficient progress would be made before December on the issue, Mr Donohoe said “imaginative and really creative” solutions were needed.

“I believe it is vital that sufficient progress is made in December to allow movement to move on to phase two,” he said. “No one is under any illusion regarding how challenging these matters will be.”

In a speech to the institute, Mr Donohoe said Britain had made a choice to “turn back the clock” on some of its closest international relationships by deciding to leave the EU.

But he added that the Brexit vote and the rise of populism meant Ireland and other pro-trade countries in Europe needed to make the case for globalisation.

Globalisation

“The lesson I think that we must take from Brexit is that it is not enough to assume that we need to communicate better the benefits of trade and globalisation…we need to tell people about how globalisation and an interconnected world has changed their lives for the better.”

While he predicted that the drawbacks of Brexit would outweigh its upsides for Ireland, the State would work to maximise the upside potential .

“Following Brexit, Ireland will be the only country in the EU that is an English-speaking common law jurisdiction,” he told the audience. “We have a young, well-educated population and the Government continues to build a business-friendly environment, for businesses large and small, foreign and domestic.”