British and Irish Relations - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
The Irish Parliament was abolished in , with Ireland becoming a part of the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Act. Ireland's future relationship with Britain will depend on what deal UK can negotiate with EU. The Republic of Ireland and the UK are two sovereign countries. It was not always so. Ireland was the last country in the British Islands to be incorporated in the.
The reasons for the evolution of intergovernmental cooperation are multi-faceted.
The influence of the former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, was also central, as well as bureaucratic learning processes. Although there were periodic strains, relations continued to flourish at least until the Brexit referendum. The EU also provided a framework for British-Irish cooperation from the s. Corridor talks and shared common interests in the EU oiled the wheels of the relationship. Policy was based on a long-term strategy.
It was not ad hoc, or reactive. Its central tenet was that in a crisis government leaders should be obliged to meet more not less often. UK and Irish governments were obliged to meet regularly. With the success of the peace process and the devolution of policing powers to Northern Ireland fromit appeared to become less relevant. The Brexit referendum created the following challenges for the British-Irish relationship: Although, many Unionists also voted to remain, the stronger support base for Remain among nationalists and Catholics meant that the Brexit result potentially reinforced the sectarian cleavage and immediately led to calls for a united Ireland, thereby potentially destabilizing the Good Friday Agreement and peace itself.
Cross-border trade is highly dependent on an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. There are also many cultural and personal links between Ireland and the UK and citizens of both states enjoy freedom of movement within the area.
In the Brexit negotiations, the Irish government, as part of the 27 member-state EU negotiating team, and the UK government are clearly on opposite sides of the EU bargaining table for the first time. Whitaker, then secretary of the Department of Finance, demonstrated in Ireland's inward-looking approach to economic development, with its emphasis on isolating the domestic market from foreign competition, worked well at first but rapidly encountered diminishing returns.
There was a limit to how much growth could be achieved through focusing on the domestic market. Also, as the Whitaker report implied and as subsequent experience would demonstrate, a small country can buck the trend set by even the largest economic neighbor.
These considerations led to a root-and-branch reappraisal of Irish economic policy that culminated in a shift from inward-looking to outward-looking policies, the dismantling of protection, and the reversal of policy from restrictions to incentives to inward foreign investment.
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Unlike the United Kingdom, the European Community favored agriculture with higher than world prices, and any new member could participate in the new regime. Its economy was also dynamic; German industry in particular was strong and was ready to invest in Ireland given the right conditions.
The promise of guaranteed access to the European market would also, it was hoped, prove attractive to U. Britain's simultaneous application made the decision to apply for membership all that much easier. There were some dissenting voices, fearful of job losses in protected industries, and many believed that the Irish government's willingness to join even without Britain was overly ambitious.
Perhaps fortunately for Ireland, both countries were turned down in following objections from France's president, Charles de Gaulle. In order to maintain the momentum of trade liberalization the Irish government reduced protection unilaterally in two percentage-point steps in the early s and then capped this with a comprehensive trade agreement with Britain that came into effect in Trade barriers were abolished on most industrial goods over a ten-year transition period.
There were exceptions for sensitive industries, and liberalization of trade in agricultural produce was tentative and took the form of individual product arrangements, most often subject to quotas. In a study of the economics of the agreement McAleese and Martin concluded that the balance of advantage was fairly evenly spread. Irish industry, the study predicted, would lose some jobs, but more would be generated in export industries, and there would be gains for the farm sector.
This was the big prize, long sought and gratefully received by the Irish voters: Anglo-Irish Relations at Present At the time of independence more than 90 percent of Ireland's trade was with Britain. By the end of the s it had fallen considerably, to 37 percent, and at the turn of this century the U. Measured by trade flows, there has been a remarkable and sustained de-linking of the two economies. Equally striking is the diminished role of U. The United States is by far the dominant investor in the manufacturing sector, and there has been a substantial influx of investment from the Continent.
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The link with sterling was broken inmuch to the relief of the Irish authorities, since sterling's role as an anchor of price stability had been undermined by high U. The break with sterling was further sealed when the Irish government adopted the Euro, notwithstanding the United Kingdom's abstention.
However, the United Kingdom remains an important influence on Ireland's economy. London continues to act as a powerful magnet and a congenial host for many Irish people in search of employment, higher education, or simply new horizons. Ireland continues to import economic-policy ideas from England. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's regime, though not warmly admired in Ireland, nonetheless had a powerful impact on the conduct of industrial relations and on attitudes to government spending.
One could go further and suggest that the adoption of these policies played a large role in creating the 's Celtic Tiger economy. Although Ireland joined the Euro area without Britain, it is clear that the new currency will not deliver all its potential benefits to the Irish economy as long as a trade partner of Britain's importance stays aloof. Paradoxically, after being the sick man of Europe for much of the postwar period, Britain has now become something of an economic star relative to slow-growing economies of continental Europe.