Brexit – the countdown begins


Sir, – Paul Gillespie claims that 50 per cent of British exports go to the EU (World View, March 18th). According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics the current official figure for both goods and services is 44 per cent. This, however, does not take into account the Rotterdam effect, by which UK goods sold outside the EU stop en route in continental Europe and are thus often incorrectly recorded as entering the European Union. Calculating the impact of the Rotterdam effect is difficult. The Office for National Statistics estimates it could reduce the true figure of British goods exported to the EU by 4 per cent. A recent paper from the Policy Exchange think tank suggests that, together with services, total exports to the EU may be as low as 38 per cent.

What is not in dispute (though rarely discussed in the Irish or British media) is that UK exports of goods and services to the European bloc have declined over the last two decades (despite the EU being enlarged) while exports outside the EU have grown. The key growth area for Britain’s crucial financial services exports is the Far East. All export markets are valuable to Britain, and it is disingenuous to imply that the UK seeks to exchange European trade with that of the Commonwealth or anywhere else. Ireland does not choose between the EU and the US but trades with both; the UK is no different. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – In a recent interview on the BBC’s Newsnight programme (March 20th), Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, remarked that a simple and clean Brexit was all that was possible within the two-year negotiating window. He went on to say that Northern Ireland was not being given the attention it deserved and he suggested that the EU/UK tax and tariff border for goods be implemented on a “sea frontier” basis (ie at sea ports and airports between Northern Ireland and Britain). Additionally Stormont should be granted autonomy in its tax affairs to compete with the Republic. The political frontier would remain where it is now, thus leaving undisturbed the governance of the Six Counties. This, in his opinion, would rejuvenate the island of Ireland economy by stimulating North/South trade between the small businesses of Northern Ireland and the Republic. He also stated that “sharply” lower food prices could be achieved by the UK when it leaves the Common Agricultural Policy, thus benefiting low-income families.

This “sea tax and tariff frontier” solution is by far the most practical and implementable one available. And it gives substance to the seamless and frictionless objectives of the politicians, which up to now could be construed as political blather. The consent of unionists would be desirable, but not essential, as it is a matter for Westminster, Dublin and Brussels.

Mervyn King is convincing, and his thinking is a sure signpost to the UK endgame. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I went to buy cartridges for my HP printer and was told that the price had risen as a result of Brexit. The increase was approximately 50 per cent. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.