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Brexit: Between London and Dublin, complex neighborhood relations

At a time when her British neighbor is about to leave Europe, Ireland is watching Brussels.

If its entry into the EU has allowed it to assert its sovereignty, Ireland must still make sure not to suffer Brexit.

"For us, the United Kingdom, it's the country of our cousins. " This is how Joseph Woulfe, an Irish dairy cow farmer in County Clare, sees his British neighbor. A historical link but also economic that the farmer does not fail to mention. "50% of Irish beef is exported to the UK market, it's a fact. " However, Brexit risks complicating trade relations between the two countries. In the case of no-deal, Irish farmers fear the return of a border that would lead to the introduction of customs duties penalizing their exports.

Brussels and London sketch out crisis on Brexit

Only one thing matters: the backstop

"My uncle has land in Northern Ireland, how will he do in case of hard border? " wonders Cliodhna Joyce-Daly, a student at Dublin City University. The 23-year-old woman follows the Brexit debate every day, even if for her "The discussions go around in circles" For the student, one thing matters: the "Backstop" – a safeguard clause, provided by the EU to prevent the return of a physical border between the two Ireland. A proposal recaled by British Conservatives who see it as a way to keep their country secured to the European entity. But for Brussels and Dublin, it is unacceptable to unravel this part of the agreement.

"In 2016, the referendum on Brexit spoiled the Anglo-Irish idyll by creating conflicts of interest"says Etain Tannam, a history professor at Trinity College. Relations between London and Dublin were often tumultuous before subsiding in the late 1980s. In 1973, Ireland's integration into the EU brought them closer to common interests. "In Brussels, Ireland and the United Kingdom were perceived as allies especially in taxation"continues the historian. By ending the Northern Ireland conflict (1968-1998), the Good Friday agreement, signed in 1998, has solidified their relationship. In 2011, the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II of England to Ireland, testified of this good agreement.

Dublin's eyes are on Brussels

Today, European stars surround Dublin, which does not prevent the United Kingdom from trying to attract the attention of its neighbor. "In January, the British government mentioned the hypothesis of a bilateral agreement between London and Dublin. Ireland fears its neighbor is using it as an ally, Etain Tannam analysis. Ireland has not followed up on this proposal, which is legally unfeasible since only the European Union has jurisdiction over trade.

Brexit, should we fear a return of violence in Ireland?

At the time of Brexit, Dublin's eyes are on Brussels. "Ireland has always been perceived as the little brother of the United Kingdom. During European Brexit negotiations, Dublin emerged as the big brother », decrypts Professor Federico Fabbrini, director of the Brexit institute. According to him, Brexit is the last step towards the "independence" of the Republic of Ireland where "The influence of the British will diminish", does he think.

To this end, Ireland is trying to diversify its economic partners, as reported by Senator and spokesperson for European affairs Neale Richmond. "When we joined the European Union, 60% of our exports went to the United Kingdom. Today, the UK market accounts for about 10% of our exports. " He pauses and continues: " It can be said that the European Union has made it possible to establish the sovereignty of Ireland. "

Irish frustration

Nevertheless, the parliamentarian admits Ireland's frustration with the current debate. And for good reason, according to the rating agency Moody's, the growth rate of Ireland would increase from 7.5% to 4% in case of hard Brexit. "If there is no agreement, Dublin will have to ask for help in Brussels that will release emergency funds. But Ireland will survive, Michael Harty, an independent Irish MP, hopes. Can the same be said of the Anglo-Irish friendship? "On the British side, Ireland is perceived as the country that prevents them from leaving the European Union. This explains why relations between London and Dublin are rather tense. "


The big dates in the history of Ireland

1922: The Free State of Ireland becomes independent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish civil war breaks out.

December 7, 1922: Northern Ireland exercises its right of withdrawal and leaves the Irish Free State.

1973Ireland enters the European Union

April 10, 1998: Good Friday Agreement, officially named peace agreement for Northern Ireland, signed by the main political forces of Northern Ireland accepting a political solution to put an end to the thirty years of "troubles" which made 3,480 dead.

Audrey Parmentier, in Dublin



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