Should we stay or should we go?
With the Brexit date (29 March) looming all eyes are on the UK parliament. They have the herculean task of trying to appease several different groups with radically different interests.
While there have been some grumblings in other countries about potential exits from the European Union, many EU citizens recognise the benefits of the single market and are happy to stay.
Just a year after the UK referendum on Brexit a poll in Ireland showed overwhelming support for remaining.
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In March 2018 the European Commission released another set of survey results that showed a massive 94% of Irish people said they were happy living in the EU. This was well ahead of the EU average of 78%. The results were released on International Day of Happiness that year.
Irish people are aware of the benefits Ireland has enjoyed from EU membership and access to the European Single Market.
The most recent was after the 2007-08 financial and property market crises. Thanks to EU assistance, Ireland returned to being one of the fastest growing economies in the EU and the world.
After receiving an economic bailout package in 2010, just three years later the Irish finance minister was able to announce Ireland was the first country to exit the bailout programme.
The European Union is a political and economic union currently with 28-member states (including the UK). The single market uses a system of standardised laws that to try and ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market.
Here are just some of the ways that Ireland has benefited from each of these freedoms.
Free movement of people
As EU citizens, Irish people can live and work freely in any Member State. Equally, Ireland can address any shortage in workers of its own by welcoming EU citizens to Ireland. This means companies operating in Ireland have access to a labour pool of almost 250 million people from across the EU. Ireland currently has over 200,000 (approximately 10%) of its workforce hailing from overseas countries.
As an EU country, Ireland is part of one of the strongest economic areas in the world. The EU has 7.3% of the world's population, but accounts for 23% of nominal global GDP.
EU membership has helped Ireland attract billions of euro in direct foreign investment, creating thousands of job opportunities for people living in Ireland.
Free movement of goods
The EU negotiates trade agreements on behalf of all Member States. For smaller economies like Ireland, it means we have a major economic force bargaining on our behalf. This has resulted in trade deals for Irish businesses and consumers that Ireland would not have secured if bargaining on its own.
Free movement of services
Ireland's membership of the European Union has helped reconstruct our economic base from one that was largely agrarian to one that is now a global leader in technology and pharmaceuticals.
Ireland is also now renowned for being a hotbed of research, development and innovation. This has attracted companies in more service led industries like the tech sectors - Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), Software, Digital Media and Social Media. Ireland is now home to global corporations such as Microsoft, MSD, Google, Intel and Facebook to name but a few.
Free movement of capital
Ireland began using the euro as our currency in 1999 with the old pound ceasing to be legal tender on the 1 January 2002. Since then, Irish companies trading with other Euro Area countries are immune from fluctuating exchange rates.
In addition to free trade across the member states, Irish exporters can also sell more easily into global markets thanks to trade agreements negotiated by the EU on their collective behalf. Markets like South Korea, South Africa, Central America and the USA are all easily accessible by Irish companies
The new trade agreement between the EU and the US is expected to bump Ireland’s GDP by 1.1% when it’s signed.
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