Ireland on brink: Dublin faces ‘pivotal moment’ as no deal Brexit an ‘existential’ threat

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Ray Bassett said reality was finally beginning to dawn on the Irish Government as to the damage such an outcome could inflict. Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was speaking after Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister, was handed a grim warning in official briefing papers prepared by his department this month.

Specifically, the report warned: “The Department of Finance is currently updating its assessment of Brexit/COVID impacts.

“But it is clear that we are facing into Brexit from a fundamentally different economic starting point than for a no deal Brexit in 2019.

“We can expect that the capacity of households and businesses to manage a second economic shock will be more limited, and there is a risk of cumulative effects due to stronger negative feedback loops.”

Mr Bassett, who has just published a book, ‘Ireland and the UK Post Brexit’, told Express.co.uk he believed the assessment was “correct”.

He added: “However, given the huge links between Ireland and the UK, it was always true that Ireland would struggle greatly in a no deal situation, even without COVID.

“The Irish Government never really believed that the UK might walk away from a bad deal and Dublin based its Brexit policy on that premise.

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“However that conclusion has been proven as incorrect and Coveney is using the COVID crisis to signal a major retreat from the old antagonistic policy towards the UK and Brexit. Realism has dawned.”

Mr Bassett said: “With Britain gone from the Council table in Brussels, Ireland is finding out that life in the EU post-Brexit is going to be very difficult. It now has no natural allies.

“Already the country got a terrible deal on the COVID recovery fund.

“I believe that it will soon dawn on the Irish establishment that it has made a very fundamental error.”

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It is a pivotal moment in Irish history

Ray Bassett

In his book, Mr Bassett adds: “Ireland now faces an existential moment in its history.

“If handled badly, and to date it has been handled very badly indeed, it has the potential to damage economic and cultural ties that have, in some cases, lasted centuries.

“It is a pivotal moment in Irish history.”

The official briefing document adds: “A range of studies point to the negative impact Brexit will have on economic growth in Ireland.

“The Department of Finance projected a negative impact of 4.3 percent on GDP growth in a limited FTA and seven percent in a WTO scenario.

“Underneath these figures are significant regional and sectoral variations with agri-food, fisheries, manufacturing and retail, the most exposed sectors.

“All these projections pre-date the COVID-19 impact.”

Speaking in May, Fine Gael member Mr Coveney, who at the time was still Tanaiste in the Government led by Leo Varadkar prior to his replacement as Taoiseach by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, said he feared “another crisis point” in the negotiations between the UK and the EU.

He told RTE Radio One: “Progress has not been good in the couple of rounds of negotiations we’ve had, of course, there have been huge distractions for everybody in the context of COVID-19.

“There are only two rounds of negotiations left before an assessment in mid-summer and one of them is this week.

“The UK seems to want to pick the areas where they want a deal early and solely focus on those, while the EU has made it clear that’s not an approach they can work with.

“In order to get a trade deal we need to know there’s a level-playing field so businesses in Ireland are not disadvantaged.”

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