Who are Irexit’s supporters, and why do they think Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU?

Who are Irexit’s supporters, and why do they think Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU?

IRELAND and the UK joined the European Economic Area together in 1973, and 44 years on a number of voices have called for the Irish to follow their closest neighbours out of the European Union.

Fans of the idea usually rally behind the fact that more than 83 per cent of Ireland’s foreign trade is with the UK.

Ian Paisley Jr, MP for North Antrim and son of the late loyalist politician, is just the latest name to come out in support of what has inevitably been dubbed ‘Irexit’.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Mr Paisley said Ireland should join ‘Club UK’ instead of remaining part of Brussel’s “failing European project”.

His comments come after one think tank warned that Irexit could become a reality after Ireland was “shafted” by the EU.

Dublin-based Hibernia Forum said Ireland could leave the bloc as revenge for the way it was treated during the financial crisis.

So who has been among Irexit’s vocal supporters, and why do they believe Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU?


The UK Independence Party, rather predictably, have consistently lauded the possibility of Irexit in the aftermath of Britain’s own decision to leave the EU back in June.

In October, UKIP MEP David Coburn stood up in the European Parliament to say it would be in the “best interests” of Ireland to leave the EU.

During a debate, he asked: “Surely the Irish Republic is making the money out of their differential tax rates, would it not be in the best interests of the Irish Republic to join Great Britain in their Brexit with Irexit?”

Nigel Farage

Coburn’s ‘Irexit’ call came shortly after former UKIP leader Nigel Farage vowed to ‘help’ Ireland leave the EU should they decide to follow the UK.

Speaking on Today FM’s The Last Word with Matt Cooper, he said: “If I was asked by an Irish Eurosceptic party to come and help them, I'd be there like a shot.”

More recently in January, Farage claimed Ireland could leave the EU if Britain make a success of Brexit.

The former City banker added: “I think if we can do that then the pressure in Ireland and public opinion in Ireland will very much move in our direction.

“It’s one of the great stories that gets put about that Ireland is this very pro-EU country and yet, twice in the last 16 years, the Irish people in referendums have rejected European treaties.”

Gay Byrne

Legendary Irish TV and radio presenter Gay Byrne has also waded into the debate in favour of ‘Irexit’.

Byrne told Independent.ie last year that Irexit could be the most “sensible” decision to make after Britain leaves the EU.

He said: "Since our main trading partner in Ireland is the UK and our second main trading partner is America it might be worth considering if they continue with Brexit that we could come out of Europe on the same day that Britain is coming out."

A Trinity College Dublin professor

In February, Anthony Coughlan, Associate Professor Emeritus in Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, said Brexit should be “accompanied” by Irexit.

Mr Coughlan said there was a “growing realisation” in Ireland that public and elite opinion is set to move in the direction of Irexit over the coming two years.

Writing on ConservativeHome, he said:An opinion poll last October showed that almost four in 10 Irish people would choose open borders and free trade with the UK over the EU.

“This was before there was any realistion of the hugely adverse effects on the Republic if it is so foolish as to seek to remain in the EU when Britain and Northern Ireland leave it.”

An Irish politician

Michael Fitzmaurice, TD for Roscommon–South Leitrim, is one Irish politician to have backed calls for Ireland to emulate Brexit.

Speaking in January, the independent politician said Ireland has to stay loyal to Britain despite finding itself “piggy in the middle” between Britain and the EU.

He said: “Ireland’s special relationship with the UK has to be taken into account in any negotiations after the Brexit vote and if that relationship is not respected then Ireland should consider their own position within the EU.

“Ireland’s special relationship with our biggest trading partner, the UK must be respected by the EU in any discussions going forward and if that is not done then Ireland must consider its own position within the EU.”