Confused about what Brexit actually means and how it will impact you? This month, STAND’s Brexit Series will help you understand how we got into this situation, what the proposed deal contains, where the negotiations are at now, and how a no-deal Brexit will impact Ireland, the UK and more widely the EU. If you’re new to the series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective and a view of what happened last week.
This fourth article will give you an insight of this week’s events and what Brexit means for Ireland.
This week’s events: Where are we now?
On Monday, the European Council consented to a Brexit extension until the 31st of January. This third delay is flexible, meaning the UK can leave before 2020 if the deal is ratified. The EU seem to have chosen the timing of this announcement quite wisely, wanting to keep pressure on the UK, instead of waiting to react to events in the House of Commons
And indeed, a major event occurred the very next day. For once, the British MPs massively agreed on something: holding a general election on the 12th December. It took PM Johnson four attempts to see his bill passed by the House of Commons, which in the end had 438 votes in favour for and 20 votes against.
What had changed by the fourth vote? The granting of the extension. British Parliament shuts down for 25 working days before each election, and as such, will shut down at midnight on November 6th. If the extension hadn’t been granted, a no-deal Brexit could have gone ahead while the Parliament was vacant, and this had to be prevented at all costs, according to the opposition.
Brexit outcomes: What could happen?
Well, everything now depends on the outcome of the general election.
If the Conservative Party wins the election, with Boris Johnson at its head, and thus reinforces its majority in Parliament, we’ll most likely witness an easy implementation of the Brexit deal. If someone else ends up as PM, they might want to edit the deal. So far, this option was waived by the EU. The EU wants to be done with negotiations, including Ireland, which wishes to see Brexit dealt with at this stage.
If the Labour Party wins, it firmly wants to renegotiate a deal with the EU, in order to find a way for the UK and the EU to work more closely together. The prospect of a closer cooperation could make the EU change its mind about renegotiating. The Labour Party also wishes to submit this hypothetical new deal to People’s vote, inciting a new referendum. By doing so, Labour intends to also give the option to British citizens to cancel Brexit. “This time the choice will be between leaving with a sensible deal or remaining in the European Union.” But still, it’s hard to see the point of going through hours of negotiation processes again, knowing that it might all be for nothing when it comes down to it. Also, I can’t help wondering how the Party intends to lead a campaign based on a very complex Brexit deal, especially when the public are still sore about the misleading campaign that was carried out back in 2016.
For the Scottish National Party, if the results of this upcoming election lead to a new referendum, they believe it should focus solely on cancelling Brexit. Accordingly, the Liberal Democrats want to cancel Brexit full stop.
What is clear at the moment is that every option is back again on the table. Who’ll live, will see.
Ireland: what is the impact for us?
Ireland could possibly be the most affected EU member state, due to its particular relationship with the UK. But according to Giovanni Zaccaroni from the DCU Brexit Institute, “Ireland will not be alone in this. Several other European member states will be highly impacted by Brexit because they are either importers or exporters from the UK. They will have the chance to join forces.”
The worst case scenario for Ireland would be a no-deal Brexit and a hard border. First, this could mean the rising of tensions in Northern Ireland. “The border is also psychological here. The Good Friday Agreement, when it was signed in 1998, cleared the way from a hard border. Anything that would bring back to that type of infrastructure would be damaging for people here and for relationships here” says Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald. To put it another way, “the EU has always been about getting rid of borders, precisely because borders separate communities. In the specific case of the Irish border, it will divide unity after decades of public order problems” adds Zaccaroni.
In addition, a hard border would impact the Irish economy. Let’s look at an example: the Guinness empire. The stout is brewed in Dublin, and then bottled or canned in Belfast, before coming back in the South for distribution. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this product is a recurring border-crosser. With delays and tariffs due to a hard border, the business could lose over €1.3million. So, yes, “businesses are going to be for sure impacted. But the Irish Government has been doing a very good job in preparing its businesses to Brexit. They already know what to do and they already know what to expect, which is most likely legal uncertainty for a while” says Zaccaroni. The Irish Government secured a fund of about €1million to deal with potential Brexit consequences, when voting on the 2020 budget.
If PM Johnson’s Brexit deal wins out, the protocol’s solution “is going to be bureaucratic and complex for businesses, but it does prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland” says Archibald. “For us there is no such thing as a good Brexit, anything is only mitigating the impact. It’s still going to cause major problems here” asserts Archibald. The deal ensures the free movement of goods on the Irish island, “at least on paper”. Many products come to Ireland through the UK, but this should not be too great a challenge for Ireland as “goods which transit through London to arrive to Dublin can also travel through Paris or Frankfurt to go to Dublin and then avoid the UK. The same cannot be told for the UK” explains Zaccaroni.
Irish citizens can rest easy for now, “the free circulation of people between the UK and Ireland should not be undermined. For people, there is not much to be worried about. I’m sure that everything will be sorted out” declares Zaccaroni.
But in the end, “no one knows what to exactly expect from Brexit. Brexit has unpredictable parts, in particular when it comes to the implementation of what’s on paper. There is a big question mark at the end of the Brexit issue” concludes Zaccaroni.
So, there was no Halloween Brexit, and yet Halloween was all about Brexit this year in the UK. More than one in two families took inspiration for their Halloween costumes from the Brexit saga. Moreover, costumes of Boris Johnson’s effigy are on the top 10 list for costume sales in the UK. So, in the end, is Brexit trick or treat?
Watch below an insight of Giovanni Zaccaroni and Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald’s interviews!