Ibec - for Irish business
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Priority 4: Ireland's all island economy

19 June 2017


The all island economy of the Republic and Northern Ireland has developed enormously since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This process was aided significantly by shared EU membership, which removed many of the economic regulatory and border barriers between the two jurisdictions, and provided a broader and more supportive political and administrative context for investment growth and job creation.

Prior to the establishment of the Single Market in the early 1990s, the Republic and Northern Ireland had a dysfunctional economic relationship. Today, however, cross-border economic activity has risen to EU norms. In many cases this is driven by SMEs as well as large firms adopting and operating an all island business model. Many thousands cross the border, in both directions, to work each day.

Shared EU membership, along with the Peace Process and underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement, has also provided a basis for an all island approach to cross-border business, infrastructure investment and commercial projects. There is enormous potential for future all island cooperation and economic development.

Ibec and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland have set out detailed investment proposals to underpin the path towards a peaceful, connected, prosperous island of 10 million people by the middle of this century. Realising this ambition requires ongoing close cooperation and collaboration, a stable political and economic backdrop, and major investment.

It is vital that both the EU and UK fully deliver on the objectives set out in the EU negotiating guidelines and the UK’s Article 50 letter to avoid a hard border, support existing bilateral arrangements, and facilitate flexible and imaginative approaches to the range of other all island challenges Brexit presents.
Challenge: New barriers to trade and business development could seriously undermine the stable functioning and potential of the all island economy

The UK leaving the EU could significantly set back the development of the all island economy, which is helping to embed peace on the island of Ireland. The absence of a shared EU economic and policy framework could undermine economic integration, trade flows and cut off access to vital EU funding streams for all island projects.

Solution The economic impact of any possible new travel and customs border arrangements between the EU and UK must be subject to robust impact assessment during negotiations in order to examine the possible effect on the Peace Process and the all island economy. This analysis must fully take on board the views of business in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and inform, and be fully reflected in, any final EU-UK deal.

Solution There should be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This will require the maintenance of the CTA post-Brexit (see also section on the CTA) and the adoption of trade and customs procedures that involve minimum disruption (see also section on trade and customs).

Solution The interconnectedness of all island production and supply chains must be maintained. Any FTA between the EU and UK must take specific account of its unique impact on the all island economy and include specific measures to offset the negative economic effects. This should include additional all island customs arrangements and tariff free trade quotas for companies operating on an all island basis if needs be (see also section on trade and customs).

Solution The future development of the all island economy must be an explicit shared objective of any EU-UK deal and it must be supported by firm commitments to collaborate on the future planning and financing of key all island investment projects. Early agreement on the completion of investment projects already in the planning phase or underway is essential. Clear political and financial commitments and arrangements are needed from both parties to maintain EU cross-border funding programmes such as Interreg, PEACE and Horizon 2020 which support, enable and advance all island research, development and innovation. The completion of an all island motorway network should be a priority.

Solution The spirit, principles and commitment of the Good Friday Agreement, along with the political, legal and institutional arrangements in place to implement them, must be further evolved to strengthen cross border and intergovernmental coordination and collaboration that will be needed post-Brexit. The institutional arrangements put in place to implement this Agreement must be fully utilised where they can support and contribute positively to the negotiating process.

Comprehensive new agreements and ways of working will also be needed between all of the agencies implementing, administering and enforcing the new cross-border arrangements. These must be progressed as the negotiations are proceeding and involve in-depth technical consultation with all island businesses.