Irish EU exit would be ‘terminal pneumonia’ rather than ‘severe flu’

Pat Cox says Ireland has to live with Brexit consequences

Former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.


Former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox has said Brexit has given Ireland “severe flu” but an Irish exit from the European Union would result in “terminal pneumonia”.

Speaking in the Seanad on Wednesday, Mr Cox warned that the cost of not creating a more effective union “could be fatal and very damaging”, with Brexit just a “hint” of what could come.

Mr Cox said Britain had chosen to leave and Ireland had to live with the consequences. Ireland was caught in circumstances that it did not find desirable and from which it could not escape.

However, he said it would not be wise for Ireland to contemplate following Britain out of Europe. “Terminal pneumonia is not a cure for severe flu,” he said.

He said there had been a fear that a “populist wave that was somehow Anglo-Saxon” might have swept across the continent, but elections in Austria, Holland and France had indicated that would not happen.

“The shock of the Brexit which in general was not anticipated, and the shock of the election of President Trump in the US which was not anticipated, are both likely to have the effect of energising and not paralysing the EU.”

Mr Cox said with the departure of Britain from the EU, the Union would lose 12 per cent of its population and 16 per cent of its GDP.

He said it was deeply regrettable but inevitable, and the decision of the British people had to be respected.

Cross-Border trade

British prime minister Theresa May’s slogans of “Brexit means Brexit” and “No deal is better than a bad deal” were described as “obscure” by Mr Cox.

He said the exit of Britain from the customs union was something that would inevitably pose serious problems to cross-Border trade, and he hoped the Northern Ireland executive would reform quickly.

Mr Cox said if the union was valued then it needed to be invested in, “not a runaway investment but a recognition that something that matters has a cost”.

He was addressing the Seanad special select committee on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Irish aviation

Aviation was one of Brexit’s “devils in the detail” which had been missed by the UK, according to Dublin Airport Authority’s outgoing chief executive officer Kevin Toland.

He told the Seanad that Brexit created particular challenges for Irish aviation. Ireland was the EU country most dependent on UK passenger traffic.

Mr Toland said UK visitor decline was forecasted for this year.

“We’re in freefall in tourism from the UK. It’s falling like a stone,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s most important competitor for tourists was the UK.

Duty free

He said Brexit was negative on the whole, but some opportunities existed including the probable reintroduction of duty free in the UK.

At the end of the two-year EU exit process, duty free sales should commence immediately for air and sea travellers to and from the UK, regardless of any transitional arrangements.

Mr Toland said aviation was in a “dangerous place”. The impact of Brexit in Britain would probably mean less routes and higher prices in place six months before departure from the EU.

“This has been missed by the of the devils in the detail is aviation.”

Brexit minister

Aidan Flynn, General Manager, Freight Transport Association of Ireland said his organisation was calling for the appointment of a dedicated Brexit minister.

Ireland would be at a disadvantage without such a minister, he said.

Mr Flynn said there had been “very little engagement” with the current Minister for Transport, Shane Ross.

He said Ireland’s geography mean the freight and logistics sector were critical to prosperity. No country was as dependent on the UK as Ireland, both as a trade partner and for access to the wider European market.

Restrictions to trade would have a devastating impact on rural Ireland.

“We remain hopeful. It is wise to plan for the worst but hope for the best.”

He noted it was reported at the end of last month that 200,000 fidget spinners had been confiscated in a fortnight. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) became concerned some of the popular toys for sale in Ireland did not meet minimum EU product safety standards.

“That could become a more common occurrence given the UK won’t have to meet the same standards,” Mr Flynn said.

He said there should be no hard border and no barrier to trade with the UK.

“Bringing back borders of the past would create unnecessary delays and disturb supply chains,” he said.

“I’m convinced there won’t be a hard border because there can’t be a hard border.”

Mr Flynn said the average age of a freight truck driver was 54 years of age and it was a “struggle” to get young people involved in the industry.