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EM Ireland launched the #PhoneAFriend campaign to motivate UK voters to register

Noelle O'Connell Photo: EM Ireland

Noelle O’Connell
Photo: EM Ireland

Noelle O’Connell, executive director of the European Movement Ireland writes about Ireland’s special relationship to Great Britain and the EM Ireland’s try to keep Britain as a part of the European Union. On that account they launched a special campaign called #PhoneAFriend.

Ireland and the UK share a special relationship formed from centuries of strained relations, but consolidated and fortified by our mutual joining of the European Economic Area on the same day in 1973. As part of the EM family, EM Ireland believes that to lose our closest neighbour and strong ally, as well as the fifth largest economy in the world, would be bad for Ireland, bad for the EU, and bad for the UK itself.

European Movement Ireland’s #PhoneAFriend voter registration drive for the UK’s EU ‘In-Out’ referendum is aimed at two distinct groups:

  • Irish-born people who live in the UK;
  • British citizens who live in Ireland.

EM Ireland is urging them to register to vote by the 7 June deadline. The campaign runs until the registration deadline and takes the form of graphics, which people can use on their own online profiles. There are also postcards which can be sent to relatives reminding them to register.

An estimated 500,000 Irish people live in England, Scotland and Wales and are eligible to vote in the EU referendum. There are also an estimated 120,000 eligible British voters living in Ireland. EM Ireland is not advocating how people should vote, but believe it is vital that all those who are eligible to vote will do so.  There are over 5 million British people who can claim at least one Irish born grandparent so there are many strong ties and links between our two islands.

EM Ireland is unequivocally of the view that Brexit would be bad for the UK, bad for Ireland, and bad for the EU itself.

If the UK votes to leave the EU on 23 June, Prime Minister David Cameron will officially notify Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, of the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 and formally withdraw from the Union. From then, the UK will have two years to negotiate a new arrangement with the EU.

While we don’t know what a post-Brexit deal would be like between the UK and EU, it is likely that negotiations would be lengthy. The UK’s EU trade deals would be in question, and should the UK have to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules, the EU’s common external tariffs on non-EU countries that it doesn’t have preferential trade deals would apply. The UK would also lose its preferential access to the 53 countries which have trade deal with the EU.

From an Irish perspective, the socio-economic ties that bind Ireland and the UK extend to every aspect of Irish society, and Ireland would suffer the largest proportional economic loss of any country other than the UK if Brexit occurs according to a report by the London School of Economics. Over €1.2 billion in goods and services are traded between our two islands every week and total external trade with the UK amounts to 35% of Irish GDP. Over 200,000 people are employed in Ireland as a direct result of exporting Irish goods to the UK, accounting for approximately 10% of all employment in Ireland. Clearly, the British-Irish trade relationship is a very important aspect of both island’s economies. The effect of a Brexit on this relationship are uncertain, but the Economic and Social Research Institute has estimated that trade flows between Ireland and the UK could be reduced on average by 20% if a Brexit were to occur, and the IMF has cut Britain’s 2016 growth forecast from 2.2pc to 1.9pc, while listing the referendum and its outcome as a key risk to the world economy.

Ireland is the only country to share a land border with the UK, and this would become an external EU border in the event of a Brexit. This would potentially undermine the normalisation of good North-South relations that have developed through much hard work and compromise, not least thanks to our common EU membership.

A ‘Brexit,’ would be bad for the EU itself. The UK is the EU’s second largest economy and the highest receiver of FDI in the bloc. The City of London hosts over 250 foreign banks, many of whom use the UK as a ‘gateway to Europe’, and 72% of investors cite access to the European single market as important in terms of attractiveness for FDI, according to a report by the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation. The referendum has already created uncertainty in the UK, with 31% of investors indicating that they will freeze or reduce investment until the outcome is known. Campaigners who suggest that a non-EU UK could secure a new, favourable trade deal with the US lost their credibility when President Obama said that any such deal could take up to ten years to negotiate.

The UK is not alone in desiring a reformed EU. Recent crises have shown us that considerable change is necessary in the policy-making structures of the EU. However, a decision to leave would arguably lessen British influence on the world stage at a time when it is needed more than ever. It is much better to tackle the global challenges of security and climate change working together within a reformed EU, than it is to face them alone.

Iconic tweets regarding EU referendum:

European MovementVerified account ‏@emireland  Apr 22

Delighted our Honorary President @PDSutherlandUN supporting our #EURef #PhoneAFriend drive with our ED @Noelle_OC




Telegramm UKref dDas EBD Telegramm zum bevorstehenden EU-Referendum in Großbritannien gibt einen Überblick über die Positionen der Mitgliedsorganisationen in Deutschlands größtem Netzwerk für Europa. Das Telegramm können Sie unter diesem Link finden.