EU Referendum

UK Irish business network to lobby against Brexit

Samuel Beckett Bridge Dublin - Stock image©iStock

Bridge over less troubled waters: Dublin’s financial district pictured across Samuel Beckett Bridge

Irish politicians and diplomats have been lobbying behind the scenes for months for the UK to remain in the EU. Now another Irish voice is about to enter the debate — and this one has the potential to affect the outcome.

Irish4Europe, an initiative by Irish-born, UK-based businesspeople, is launching on Thursday with the aim of persuading the 430,000 Irish residents of the UK that Britain staying in the EU is “good for Europe, good for the UK, and good for Ireland”.

The initiative comes from the Irish International Business Network, a London-based umbrella group. Many of the businesspeople in the network work in the City of London, but the Irish community in the UK also includes retired people and an estimated 50,000 directors of UK-based companies.

Liz Shanahan, chairwoman of the IIBN, who runs a healthcare consultancy in London, said: “Many of us have lived here all our working lives, and we feel very strongly that both Ireland and the UK benefit from the UK being in the EU.”

According to the 2011 UK census, there are 407,000 Irish-born people living in England and Wales, with a further 23,000 in Scotland. An analysis by the Clinton Institute, a think-tank at University College Dublin, shows that about 90,000 Irish people moved to the UK between 2008 and 2013 — the years of the Irish financial crisis and steep spending cuts.

The Irish government is not officially backing the initiative, which is due to be launched in the House of Commons. “We are not a mouthpiece for the Irish government,” Ms Shanahan said. “We have our own skin in the game here in the UK. We work here, we pay taxes here, and we have a clear vested interest, as well as a personal interest, in wanting this to happen.”

Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, has described the possibility of a Brexit as the biggest strategic threat to Ireland. The Economic and Social Research Institute, a Dublin think-tank, has estimated that bilateral trade, which is worth €1bn a week, could shrink by a fifth if the UK left the EU, due to the reimposition of trade barriers.

There is also a fear that Brexit could undermine the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, and lead to the return of customs checks along the Irish border, which have for all practical purposes disappeared over the past 20 years.

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