An Irish EU exit is becoming more and more likely as the country "wakes up" to the benefits of life outside the union, a former diplomat declared.
Ray Bassett said people were coming round to the idea of an 'Irexit' or 'Eireamach', which roughly translates as 'Ireland out' in Gaelic. The former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas told Express.co.uk "public opinion is changing" on the island.
He said while still an unlikely prospect, especially as Ireland regularly boasts the highest levels of support for the European Union in the bloc, it was no longer an impossibility. Bassett, who also worked with the Irish government during Good Friday Agreement negotiations, said: "Public opinion is changing. I don't know how radically, but it's changing.
"People are only beginning to wake up and get interested." He dismissed the high levels of support for the bloc in Ireland as a result of slanted approval polls and a lack of understanding of how the EU works. Bassett said: "A lot of the polls are, you know, they know how to set the next answer with the question.
"If you say to somebody if they're pro-Europe they say 'absolutely', but if you ask about policies they are against them." He said Ireland is closer, culturally and politically, to the UK than to mainland Europe. Bassett explained: "People are not as culturally tuned into the EU as our politicians would love it to be. There's more Irish in Toronto than in Germany and France put together!
"During the recession they went to London, Toronto, Sydney, and Melbourne. They don't go in any numbers to Berlin, there's always a scattering but in many ways trying to stay with Europe goes against geography and culture." And he said the ongoing Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK were also having an unexpected result in increasing euroscepticism in Ireland especially due to the subject of the Irish border.
He said the EU was actually keener to have a physical barrier on the island than the UK. Bassett claimed: "I think Ireland is definitely pro-Europe, probably still pro-EU, but I think the resent negotiations are having an effect.
"Brussels is keener on putting a border in Ireland than the UK. The EU has certain dogmas … including the customs union. It means you can't have breaches of the customs area. "It's more likely Brussels will be tougher on a border than the UK."
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