Brexit: The view in Ireland

Dublin Brexit Insights
By David Wood, Senior Policy Director, Policy Leadership at ICAS

6 July 2017

Ireland needs a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, at least covering cross-border trade in agriculture.

That was the message from a joint Brexit Briefing held by ICAS and Chartered Accountants Ireland in Dublin on 20 June.

After a welcome from CAI President, Shauna Greely, the main presentations were given by Brian Keegan, CAI Director of Public Policy and Taxation, Mike McKeon, ICAS Vice-President and Chair of our Brexit Advisory Group, and Eoin O’Shea, FCA and Barrister at Law.

Ireland and UK: the special relationship

Ireland has a huge reliance on the UK: UK visitors represent 40% of Ireland’s tourism, 55% of Ireland’s fuel imports and 41% of its food imports come from the UK, and almost half of its agricultural exports go to Britain or Northern Ireland. Reference was made to an estimated 30% drop in Ireland-UK trade if there is no EU-UK trade deal.

CAI President Shauna Greely, CAI Director of Public Policy and Taxation Brian Keegan, FCA and Barrister at Law Eoin O’Shea and ICAS Vice-President and Chair of Brexit Advisory Group Mike McKeon

Brian noted the huge difficulties involved in getting a negotiated agreement between the UK and the EU.

Assuming the British Government can get a deal through its parliament, it then needs to get through the European Parliament and the EU Council. 

The Council’s qualified majority voting requires 55% support by Member States representing 65% of the EU population. Very challenging against an expectation that Member States are likely to be influenced by their own self-interest.

The border issue

The imposition of any barriers at what will be the UK’s only land border with the EU, is a major worry.

Tariffs and duties represent an obvious additional cost to cross-border flows, but even additional paperwork and inspections could cause delays which impact significantly on cross-border trade but especially involving perishable foodstuffs. Furthermore, many of the exports are made by SMEs who are not well equipped to handle additional costs and bureaucracy.

Eoin approached the subject from the perspective of an Irish smuggler reassessing their business model. Pianos, live pigeons and hammers carry little duty (3% to 6.4% under WTO schedules) but agriculture has much bigger duties, with 50% on meat – a potentially lucrative profit margin for a cross-border smuggler!

Crossing the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was compared to crossing the Ukraine-Romania border, as an example of a non-EU to EU border. Whilst “everything” is searched when you cross between Romania and Ukraine, it was inconceivable that this would be the case when crossing the Irish-UK border in future.

A soft Brexit

Ireland is keen, therefore, to see as soft a Brexit as possible, with a trade deal covering agriculture at the very least.

Mike McKeon and Brian Keegan during the Panel discussionThe Panel discussion was chaired by Audrey Carville, a well-known Irish journalist and one of the presenters of Morning Ireland, the breakfast news programme on RTÉ Radio One. The discussion also involved David Wood, Senior Policy Director at ICAS as well as the three main speakers.

Other Irish perspectives from the event were:

  • Post general election, it is no longer clear what the UK Government actually wants from Brexit.
  • If the UK leaves the EU and does well, this will call into question the whole EU concept.
  • Brexit is not a good move for either island.

For more information, the Irish Government has published a concise booklet “Brexit – Ireland’s Priorities” which sets out Ireland’s concerns around the following areas:

  • Northern Ireland and the Peace Process
  • Economy and Trade
  • The Common Travel Area
  • Future of the European Union


  • Business issues

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