No alternative trade model will be better than the current agreement that the UK has, an Irish Government minister has said.
Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, urged British people to vote to stay in the European Union ahead of the referendum.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor, who was visiting Leeds to meet businesses and organisations with Irish connections, warned that Britain would be impacted adversely in the event of a Brexit.
“It is our sincere hope that the UK will decide to stay and work with us for a better, more effective and stronger European Union,” she told a breakfast meeting in Leeds at Lupton Fawcett Denison Till.
The Irish Minister said: “We are convinced that no alternative arrangement will be better than the one we currently have. A single market and seamless flow of goods, services, capital and people.
“There are of course many different trading models that could be put in place and we believe that each of the alternatives would impede not improve trade flows.”
The Irish Government hopes that Britain stays in the EU so that the union is further strengthened through further reforms.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor added that “Northern Ireland would be the most adversely affected region in the UK”, in the event of a Brexit.
It is not always sufficiently acknowledged that the EU has made an important contribution to sustaining peace and prosperity in the region, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said.
John McGrane, director general at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, said that Yorkshire was bustling with trade and is a key trading partner for Ireland. “We’re all about trade,” he said. “Trade that sustains over €1bn of trade a week between Ireland and the UK, 400,000 jobs. We don’t want anybody to mess with that.”
Speaking about the level of trade between Ireland and the UK, Mr McGrane said: “We could do much more.
“We trade a huge amount. Britain is Ireland’s largest trading partner and we’re among the top five of Britain’s largest trading partners.
“We’re already heavily connected. In fact we would say we are joined at the economic hip and we can do much more.”
He added that in Yorkshire Ireland has many links, in financial services, manufacturing and in tourism.
“There’s significant potential to do significantly more,” added the director general.
A Brexit would create great uncertainty. Mr McGrane said: “It creates massive uncertainty and uncertainty is the enemy of investment in business and that uncertainty could last for a very long time. It will slow down new job creation until people know where we stand and what sort of market will exist.
“Secondly it will more than likely lead to trade barriers in situations where there are none today. That will have a very damaging effect.”
Ms Mitchell O’Connor said it was ultimately for the British people to decide but Ireland has a “unique perspective” because of its proximity and close trade relations. Ireland will continue to remain a part of the EU regardless of the outcome of the referendum, she added.
City’s deep links with Ireland
Irish connections run deep in the Leeds area, according to Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
She said: “The origins of the Leeds Irish community can actually be traced back to the aftermath of Napoleonic wars. At one stage in the early 1970s the Irish community numbered almost 31,000 people.
“Our business connections with the Leeds area are also strong with Irish owned companies such as Jurys Inn, Adams Foods, which is owned by Ornua formerly the Irish dairy board.”
The UK is particularly significant for Irish foods and drink producers, accounting for over 40 per cent of exports last year, the Minister said. The UK trades more with Ireland than China and India combined.