Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Trade Brendan Smith says the outcome of the upcoming Brexit referendum could mark a potentially defining shift in British-Irish relations.  If the British public vote to leave the EU, Ireland will have to deal with a range of social, cultural and economic issues, which will have an impact across the entire island.

Deputy Smith commented, “The benefits of EU membership cannot be underestimated.  The Union has been at the helm of innovative and transformative policies that have enhanced social, cultural and legal rights in Ireland introducing measures such as equal pay for equal work and promoting the rights of people with disabilities.

“As Britain is our largest trading partner, Ireland will be disproportionately affected by an EU exit.  The ESRI forecasts the move could reduce bilateral trade flows between Ireland and Britain by at least 20%.  Combined with this, any fall off in Foreign Direct Investment is likely to result in slower economic growth in Britain, which in turn would impact negatively on Ireland’s economic growth.

“Major political advances have been enabled as a result of our EU membership, and the progress that was made to bring about peace in Northern Ireland was simplified by the fact that both Ireland and Britain are both EU members.  This allowed us to foster good working relations, which was central to the workings of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

“Fianna Fáil is committed to creating a cross-border economic development zone to promote job creation in the border counties and European support will be vital in this.

“This Referendum on EU Membership and resultant negotiations mark a potentially defining shift in British-Irish relations.  The prospect of a fresh wall of regulations being built from Derry to Newry would deal a massive blow to years of efforts on cross border reconciliation and growth.  Ireland cannot afford our largest trading partner and only land border state to leave the European Union”.