QUAXIT? O my d’ARLENE!
We are at the end of the beginning according to Taoiseach Varadkar or maybe at the beginning of the end, depending on the way that you look at it. It has been a frantic week of debate on the border issue, one minute we were hard and the next minute soft, it sounded like a bun fight over the last egg in a caff! In the end it was a double Irish, a realisation from the U.K. government that Ireland most definitely meant business in relation to the border and that great hand of friendship from Messrs Varadker and Coveney across the Irish sea – look if it is a matter of semantics, we are happy to tweak any text put forward on the border issue. So, it is farewell and adieu to Arlene Foster and thank you for your contribution, let’s move on to stage two.
What does all of this mean for you and me and our businesses? It looks like we have been going around in circles, Europe, Ireland and U.K. have all stressed that they are now committed to achieving a soft Brexit. We have moved from wanting to take control over its own destiny and borders, to proposing that the U.K. and the E.U. enter into a free trade agreement. Let’s be honest, there was only one key issue for the U.K. and that was controlling immigration. So, what is all the fuss about? If it is going to be soft, if there is going to be no border and if we are heading towards a quasi-single market and a quasi-customs union – hang on a minute this sounds very like being a member of the European Union, quelle est la différence? Is Brexit becoming a ‘Quasi Exit’ – a Quaxit?
We do not have enough details on the border to understand how all of this will work. There could potentially be issues for foreigners legitimately landing in Ireland and travelling across the border to Northern Ireland, there are going to be challenges on that front. So, going back to the question, great news that potentially we will have no issue in relation to customs duties, or will we? It may take years to negotiate a treaty between the U.K. and the E.U., you don’t just snap your fingers, these things need to be negotiated and there are many interest groups, the fishing industry to name but one good example. So, in the short to medium term that is a very real issue for Irish businesses. There is going to be issues in relation to free movement which we have discussed and of course there is going to be a plethora of changes to statutes and that leads to changes in contracts and other legal documents and of course jurisdictional issues – if I have to sue, where is the best jurisdiction to take my case? At least there was an element of certainty with the E.U. harmonisation of laws. So, unfortunately, the headache is not over, but the hangover is just about to begin…
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