Joe Biden ‘to warn Johnson on Ireland protocol’ says expert
The UK finally cut all ties with the European Union at the end of last year when it agreed a post-Brexit trade deal at the end of tense and bitter negotiations that ended 47-years’ membership of the bloc. Ireland had been one of the fiercest critics of Brexit and the UK since the historic referendum in 2016, with attacks led by then-Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Those criticisms have continued, primarily through Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, as the row between the UK and EU over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol threatens to spiral out of control.
But the tables have seemingly turned on Ireland, with former senior Irish diplomat Ray Bassett warning, with Brexit now in full swing, “Ireland faces a very different external landscape”, with the bloc now becoming “a much colder house”.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the former ambassador said: “With Brexit now a reality, Ireland faces a very different external landscape.
“Any kudos it gained for its pro-EU stance during the Brexit process was quickly forgotten and the bloc has become a much colder house.
“Dublin was made to confront this early when the EU, without consultation or any regard to Irish interests, invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to establish a hard border on the island of Ireland for Covid vaccines.
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“After howls of protest from Dublin, Belfast and London, the invocation was dropped – but the episode brought home just how peripheral Ireland and its interests really are to Brussels.”
Mr Bassett pointed to the EU this week issuing threats of punitive action against the UK over its stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which Mr Bassett warned is “clearly not sustainable in its current format”, with the escalation of a trade war also a strong possibility.
He said it was clear the best solution is for direct talks between Dublin and London to resolve “this local issues”, with flexibility on all sides.
The former diplomat added full cooperation on an overhaul of the current Protocol “could be the catalyst for a reset of Irish/British relations”.
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He said: “That, however, is something that the EU will never countenance.”
But in a furious attack against the EU, Mr Bassett warned: “Perhaps this would matter less if the EU was taking Dublin’s other interests more seriously, yet Brussels has time and again proved a poor partner.
“Ireland, just like the UK, has extensive and rich fishing grounds. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, the local fishing fleet is only allocated 15.5 per cent of the stocks in Irish waters. This was partially compensated for by quotas inside UK waters.
“After Brexit, however, the Commission imposed very large cuts on the Irish allocation in the British maritime area, the largest cuts of any EU nation. The interests of France, Spain and the Netherlands clearly trumped those of the Irish.”
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Mr Bassett also warned the wide-ranging changes to corporation taxation “poses the biggest threat”, with Ireland historically growing rich by attracting a disproportionate amount of Foreign Direct Investment and the generous tax rate of 12.5 percent encouraging multinationals to base themselves in Ireland.
But he warned “global reforms in this area” are imminent after finance ministers of the G7, backed heavily by the EU, decided to establish a minimum 15 percent tax rate and move to tax multinationals where they make their sales.
The Irish Department of Finance has warned the move to this new increased tax rate could smash the country’s corporation tax income by up to €2.4 billion per year or a fifth of the total.
The Irish business representative body, IBEC, has warned the losses could surge to well over €3 billion, with Mr Bassett raging: “The EU is determined to rein in Ireland’s competitive advantage.”
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In a final warning and swipe at the EU, the former diplomat said: “If the EU continues to attack Ireland’s ability to attract FDI, a fundamental question will have to be asked as to how long it will continue to be in Ireland’s interest to remain inside the bloc.
“Ireland’s two main trading partners are the UK and the USA, with total non-EU trade accounting for well over 60 per cent, by far the highest percentage of any EU country.
“The US and the UK are the largest overseas investors in Ireland and between them they receive the bulk of Ireland’s growing external investment. Ireland is part of the Anglosphere of English-speaking countries.
“There are other developments inside the EU which are not to the Irish public’s taste.
“The growing demand, especially by Germany, for a common foreign policy based on majority voting in the European Council, a push for greater militarisation of the EU, and Ireland’s growing net contribution to the EU budget will all place a strain on the traditional Irish pro-EU sentiment.
“These changes could yet cause an eventual rupture with Brussels.
“Irexit may be emerging as a credible prospect in the future.”