Britain  •  International

Ireland: hard Brexit, hard border

07 February 2017

Brexit will have enormous political and economic ramifications on both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Since the EU referendum, for example, Irish food and drink exports to the UK have fallen by €570 million, according to the Republic of Ireland’s Bord Bia. Food and drink account for 41% of Ireland’s exports to the UK, while Ireland is also the main market for UK food and drink exports.

The Irish government believes growth could take a 4% hit over ten years of hard Brexit, costing 40,000 job cuts (equivalent to 500,000 in the UK), mostly in the first five years.

There might be some initial inward investment but the biggest disruption would be to trade with the UK. Added to this, Britain’s withdrawal from the single market would necessarily mean the UK having a land border with the EU along the Six Counties.

A hard border with passport checks, customs posts and increased regulations would set back both economies. The Tory government calculates that economic losses for Northern Ireland after Brexit would cost it 5.6% of its GDP.


The border communities have never benefited from the partition of Ireland, cut off from their hinterlands and ranking amongst the most disadvantaged areas on the island.

Brexit will deepen their social and economic problems. Border Communities against Brexit, which campaigns on both sides of the border, warns of a “devastating impact” on such communities.

In the North 56% voted to remain in the EU, yet, like Scotland, they are tied to Brexit.

EU funding for cross-community projects reached £2.5 billion in the last funding round. This will now almost certainly cease.

The political fallout from Brexit is a gathering storm. It has put the national question right back into Irish politics. Even Irish establishment politicians, like Fine Gael Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, have raised the possibility of a border poll and eventually a united Ireland.

The fall of Stormont has opened up a political crisis for devolved government. Sinn Fein too has called for a vote on Irish unity, though only in the North.

However, only the British Secretary of State can call such a referendum, so don’t hold your breath!

So the Unionist veto on Irish unity is now matched by an English veto on Northern Irish membership of the EU.

These twin democratic deficits are a symptom of British imperialism’s denial of all the Irish people’s right to self-determination

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