2019 European Elections: Ireland is the gauge of Brexit success (HAFEZ on Eurasia Prospective)

In the aftermath of the Brexit, Ireland is face with major issues in the run up to the 2019 European Elections in May 2019. D.R. HAFEZ, a British scholar specialised in international relations, answers 3 key questions on the matter.

EAP : what are the main competitors in the next electoral competition in May? And what is at stake in Ireland?

D.R. HAFEZ : The Irish political landscape is currently shaped by several political parties all of which will want to do well in the upcoming European elections. Currently, Ireland has 11 MEPs from various political parties (Sinn Fein, Fine Gael, and independent runners) and will likely have 13 MEPs due to a change triggered by Brexit and therefore the abandoning of parliamentary seats by the British MEPs. Quite apart from being represented by more MEPs, the next electoral competition could also see a wider variety of Irish parties represented such as Fianna Fail, the Labour party or indeed the Green party.

EAP : Is there an Irish agenda for Europe? And what is it ?

D.R. HAFEZ : Globally speaking, the Irish political class and indeed Irish society supports the goals and philosophy of the European Union. After all, Ireland has long been touted as the “celtic tiger” (see photograph) thanks in no small part to the financial help of the EU. However, like several other countries in the EU, Ireland possesses a number of “opt outs” (i.e. the possibility of not subscribing to certain EU agreements), most notably the Schengen agreement (which has abolished internal border checks for a select number of countries within the EU), but also certain aspects of freedom, security and justice (previously the Justice and Home Affairs pillar).


Today, Ireland has an increasing responsibility within the EU – whether it be through Emily O’Reilly who is currently in her second term as European Ombudsman, or indeed by its net contribution to the EU’s budget – and will no doubt look to increase that further. One particular area of note concerns fiscal policy. Indeed, the EU has often tried to iron out fiscal advantages between countries in order to eliminate “fiscal dumping” – Ireland has fought against such measures in the past to preserve its fiscal attractiveness within the Eurozone, much to the chagrin of its EU partners.


EAP : How the Brexit will affect the polls and the results?

D.R. HAFEZ : Brexit is viewed with a mixture of trepidation and potential excitement in Ireland. Indeed, on the one hand, one of Ireland’s biggest trading partners is Great Britain – creating a border in Northern Ireland was therefore a red line for the current Taoiseach, quite apart from its implications on the fragile good Friday agreement. It is worth noting that the various political parties present in Northern Ireland have been in close communication with Dublin during the last few months. Similarly, with the exit of Great Britain from the European Union, Irish opt outs will stick out more-so than before and no doubt that the EU will try and pressure Dublin into conforming with the rest of the Schengen countries. On the other hand, Ireland stands to gain a great deal from Brexit, in particular if access to the single market is denied to the City’s financial sector. In such a context, Dublin would become a very attractive entry point into the EU.

As it stands, the current Brexit deal lays to rest most of Dublin’s fears, though an unhappy DUP in Northern Ireland is currently cause for concern – the DUP has threatened to vote against Mrs. May’s Brexit deal if passed through parliament. A failure of Parliament to vote for the Brexit deal as it stands could lead to a No-deal Brexit, which would be catastrophic both to Great Britain and also to Ireland to a lesser extent.