Senator Neale Richmond talks to Gary Ibbotson on how we’ll all be affected by our neighbours’ plans.
“How will Brexit – assuming that Brexit does actually go ahead – affect the people of Dublin?
If there is a deal, nothing should happen for about 16 months when there’s a transition period where we allow the EU and UK to negotiate a future trade, customs and regulatory deal – that’s the preferred scenario.
Obviously, we would love it if they didn’t Brexit, but let’s take it that they will leave.
[With a deal] people won’t feel any real difference on the ground, apart from the differences that we’re feeling now with the economy slowing down due to the little bit of uncertainty.
If there’s a crash-out scenario, however, things will become starker a lot more rapidly.
The place that will feel it the most isn’t Dublin, to be honest – it’s the agri-food sector and rural communities and particularly the region around the Border [which will be more directly affected].
However, Dublin will feel it as well because [no deal] Brexit will see an overall slowing down of our economy.
This year, our economy is growing about 4.6%, in a no-deal scenario that slows down to about 0.8% so it’s a massive slowdown.
Our unemployment is only 4.4% but, in a no-deal scenario, that will go over 7%, so it has the potential to have the same sort of impact on the economy as the financial crisis.
The Minister of Finance has prepared two budgets for October, one for if the UK has crashed out and one for if they haven’t.
If the UK crashes out, it changes the Irish economy drastically and everyone will feel that.
How long will that slow-down last?
For Ireland, it will be a sharp, stark decline while for the UK it will be over a medium scale.
It has the potential to have a long-term effect on the Irish economy. We’re doing very well at the moment, but we’re in a very fragile period.
If the UK crashes out, it won’t just be six months of badness – it could be six years, it could be much longer, and it could be generational.
In terms of the Government’s preparedness for Brexit, how do you think we’re doing? How are councils in Dublin readying themselves for all possibilities?
For the past 18 months, the Government has been running a very detailed Getting-Brexit-Ready programme.
We do work with all of the local authorities and every council has a Brexit officer.
They feed into central government and this is all being ran from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Ireland is in a good situation that with the Common Travel Agreement people will always be able to travel between the UK and Ireland, but they will have to make sure that they can tender and go through the procurement process, which isn’t easy.
Together with groups such as Enterprise Ireland, commercial banks such as Bank of Ireland and AIB, we’ve been running roadshows to let businesses know how to get Brexit-ready.
For example, if you have a British driving license, you need to change that over to an Irish driving license now; if you drive into Northern Ireland or the UK you need to get your insurance company to issue you with a Green Card now – these are things that people can do now.
If you qualify for Irish citizenship, and you’re a UK national, apply for your Irish passport – do all of these small things.
The problem is you can never fully prepare for Brexit because no one knows what it’s going to be.
What do you think will happen within the coming months – what’s your prediction for the outcome of Brexit?
I learned before the election of Donald Trump not to make predictions, it’s completely impossible to predict [outcomes].
Brexit will not be good, but the thing we have going for us is that Ireland is not leaving the European Union and it’s our continued membership of the European Union that will help get us through this.”