Ex-Irish PM John Bruton – ‘Britain should compensate Ireland for costs of Brexit’
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Ex-Irish PM John Bruton – ‘Britain should compensate Ireland for costs of Brexit’

THE British Government should recompense Ireland and other EU states for the costs imposed on them by Brexit, former Taoiseach John Bruton has said.

The former Irish leader, who also served as the EU’s ambassador to the United States, was speaking on POLITICO’s 'EU Confidential' podcast when he criticised Britain’s “current vision” for Brexit.

He said that Theresa May’s government is yet to answer “fundamental questions” raised by the UK’s departure as so-called ‘divorce talks’ between Britain and the Brussels bloc continue.

“There is considerable annoyance in Ireland that a decision that Britain is taking is going to impose costs on us,” Mr Bruton said.

“I think Britain may come to the realisation that Brexit, as they sold it to themselves, isn’t feasible. But Britain itself would have to come to that conclusion.

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“Britain is not going to be told, Britain has to learn, by doing — or attempting to do — what they propose, that what they’ve been proposing isn’t workable.”

Mr Bruton said there is “at least a moral argument” that Britain should compensate Ireland and other EU member states for costs incurred to them by the Brexit process.

He explained: “If you look at what happens if somebody in business pulls out of a contract and thereby imposes costs … there could at least be a moral responsibility on Britain.”

Asked about the recent stream of position papers published by the British Government, Bruton said: “They’re not about substance, they’re about procedure.

“The substance is what level of tariff you’re going to charge, will Britain pursue a cheap food policy?

“Will Britain automatically accept standards laid down by the EU and rulings laid down by the European Court of Justice?”

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Mr Bruton added: “Those are the substantial questions and those have not been addressed yet.”

The 70-year-old former Fine Gael politician also commented upon the controversial border situation between Ireland and the North post-Brexit.

He said that even if Britain announced an Irish border without controls, there would still have to be checks on some goods coming into the EU.

“Whether the hard border occurs at the border, or 10 or 15 or 50 miles either side of the border, you are still going to have to have a system to check whether goods entering the EU in Ireland from the UK meet EU standards of safety, meet EU standards of rules of origin, and have paid all the relevant EU tariffs, which in some cases are very high indeed,” he said.

He said Ireland would benefit from UK companies moving across the Irish Sea post-Brexit but that those gains would be outweighed by negative disruption to trade and agriculture.

“I think the benefits, if there are benefits from Brexit, will possibly be concentrated in a small number of urban areas,” he said.

“Whereas the losses, which will be much, much greater, will be spread throughout the whole country of Ireland.”

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He added: “This issue of Brexit is all wrapped up with the English sense of who they are and their place in the world and, in a way, Brexit is being used as a means of discovering a new identity.

"That’s a psychological process rather than an economic one. Britain has got to work out for itself who it wants to be.”