The Government is to begin a major campaign to assure global investors Ireland’s place in the EU is secure if the UK decides to quit in next week’s referendum.
Meanwhile, Opposition leaders will be given a briefing today on the Government’s contingency planning to cope with an exit decision in the June 23rd vote should it occur.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night Ireland would not hold a vote on its future in the EU. Mr Kenny said regardless of the outcome of the referendum Ireland would remain a committed member of the EU.
He said Brexit would have serious implications for Ireland and the Government would do everything in its power to prevent such an outcome.
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe yesterday warned Brexit would cause huge uncertainty and could hit growth targets , while Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said it would mean Ireland loses “an ally and Europe is weakened”.
Reflecting the mounting concerns, Patrick Coveney, chief executive of Greencore, one of Ireland’s largest firms, warned that Brexit would be “very, very bad” for the Irish, European and world economies.
Mr Kenny, who today begins a two-day campaign in Manchester and Liverpool to encourage a Remain vote by Irish people living in Britain, has complained about the referendum campaigns run by Northern Ireland political parties.
“There is evidence of little activity from the political parties on the ground in explaining to people what this referendum is about and the consequences for Northern Ireland,” he said.
The Government is officially tight-lipped about preparations for a “Leave” vote, but plans have been drawn up for a commercial, diplomatic and political campaign to advertise Ireland’s continuing position as an EU member.
Promising “a huge campaign all over the world”, an informed source said a strong campaign is needed in the US, China and India and elsewhere to drive home the message that Ireland is separate from the UK and that it intends to stay in the EU.
A planned joint appearance by Mr Kenny and the British prime minister David Cameron in Manchester was cancelled after Downing Street accepted that Mr Cameron needs to step back if Labour voters are to be persuaded to vote to stay.
However, Mr Cameron infuriated unionists yesterday when he warned travel restrictions may be needed between Northern Ireland and Britain if Brexit occurs – not just between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“If we were to leave – the leave campaigners want to make a big issue about our borders – we will have a land border between Britain outside the European Union and the Republic of Ireland inside the European Union,” he told the House of Commons.
“Therefore, you can only have new border controls between the Republic and Northern Ireland or, which I would regret hugely, you would have to have some sort of checks on people as they left Belfast or other parts of Northern Ireland to come to the rest of the UK.”
However, Democratic Unionist MP Gavin Robinson accused Mr Cameron of fear-mongering, while Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said any attempt to introduce travel restrictions on people from Northern Ireland – as happened during, and after the second World War – would “destroy the integrity of the United Kingdom”.
Meanwhile, former president Mary McAleese warned Irish people living in Britain could become “outsiders” after an exit vote. “If any Irish person thinks that they are exempt from the box called ‘immigrants’, let them think again.”
Mr Varadkar has urged all Fine Gael TDs to contact all British people living in their constituencies who have the right to vote in the referendum to encourage them to vote to stay in the EU.
UK citizens living in Ireland, as well as Irish citizens who lived in the UK during the past 15 years, can cast a ballot in the referendum. The last Irish census in 2011 showed that 288,627 people listed their place of birth as being in the UK.