Tomorrow, on June 23rd, U.K. voters will go to the polls to decide one of the mostimportant questions to face their country in living memory: Should it remain in the European Union? If the “leave” campaign wins, any number of scenarios could play out. The government could push for association with the EEA (European Economic Area) as Norway has, retaining access to the common market without participating in E.U. politics (though still paying dues and following E.U. laws). It could also, as “leave” campaigners have put forward, enter into a no-strings-attached free trade agreement with the E.U. (although Brussels’ willingness to humour this is dubious at best). The third and most likely scenario is that a Brexit could result in the U.K. leaving the single market for a new status like the “privileged partnership” proposed by Angela Merkel to tie Turkey with the E.U. This would require the U.K. to negotiate new agreements not only with the E.U., but every country with which the E.U. has trade treaties, imposing significant losses on Britain and its trading partners.
In Ireland, polling on the referendum has been watched with understandable trepidation. The United Kingdom is one of Ireland’s biggest trading partners, and businesses–especially SMEs–are worried about the consequences that a Brexit could have for their supply chains, customer bases, and bottom lines. Going into the possible future of a Europe without Britain, it is important to be aware of what it could mean for Irish companies.