IIEA’s paper “Untying the Knot? Ireland, the UK and the EU”, February 2013

Dáithí O’Ceallaigh and James Kilcourse, Untying the Knot? Ireland, the UK and the EU, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Dublin, February 2013 

Ireland must stay close to both the UK and Europe. This is the crux of the challenge facing Ireland as the UK attempts to renegotiate its position in the European Union. The relationship between Ireland and the UK has never been better, but David Cameron’s January 2013 speech on Europe heralds a long period of uncertainty for Ireland and the EU. The uncertainty surrounding the UK’s place in Europe is further intensified by the Scottish vote on independence in 2014, which could see an independent Scotland applying to join the EU, and the rest of the UK on its way to the exit. Given that it stands to be one of the biggest losers from a UK withdrawal, it is crucial that Ireland adopts a far-sighted and well-balanced strategy for dealing with the possible implications.

This paper outlines Ireland’s relationship with the UK and the EU in the context of the UK’s changing attitude to Europe. It presents a range of options and assesses how best Ireland can fashion its long-term strategic interests under a number of scenarios. It is based on the deliberations of the IIEA UK Group, a working group which has been active since the foundation of the IIEA in 1991. The process that has given rise to the current paper began in March 2012. Since then, members of the Group have met with a number of British and European politicians, journalists, officials and academics, both in London and in Dublin.