Ireland was projected to be the EU’s fastest growing economy in 2016. The European Commission put Ireland’s growth forecast for 2016 at almost 5%, to be followed by another 3.7 percent in 2017, well above the EU average of 1.6 percent, which is the same number Germany is expected to grow in 2016.
However, Brexit is affecting Ireland more than any other country. Former prime minister John Bruton called it “the most serious, difficult issue facing the country for 50 years.”
The cause is Ireland’s reliance on trade with the UK, which is the main buyer of Ireland’s services and second-biggest buyer of Ireland’s exports after the US. Around 40% of Irish food exports go to the UK, and this type of product — agricultural — is considered to be highly subject to the tariffs that could result from Brexit.
Economists are now warning of significant negative consequences for the Irish economy following Brexit. A top economist in Ireland, Eoin Fahy, referred to the consequences as “mind-boggling.”
There has also been concern among politicians and intellectuals in the country that Brexit will “reveal tensions between unionists and nationalists that were always there” and lead to a “hardened border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.