As the European Union Ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2009, former Irish Prime Minister John Gerard Bruton has an insider’s view of the changing political landscape. He is in the city to give a talk on Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as President of the US, and the Belfast Agreement, which he brokered in 1998. He spoke to The Hindu on Tuesday on some of the world events that have unfolded over the last few months.
How do you feel the US election results will affect world politics?
My main worry is that President-elect Trump might implement some of the protectionist measures that he suggested, such as high tariffs on imports from Mexico and China. That could lead to an escalation of barriers being erected by others.
He also wants to pull out of existing agreements of which the US is a party, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, though he may find this to be a lot more complicated than he thinks.
The United States will now have a President who isn’t convinced that there is a man-made contribution to climate change. While he cannot withdraw from the Paris Agreement in the four years that he is in power, I would worry that if the US President is not convinced of the need to take steps to curb climate change, the country will not make the full contribution it needs to make to address the problems caused by climate change, such as the drought in several parts of India.
How will Brexit affect Ireland’s prospects in the world economy?
Over all, the effect will be very bad for Ireland, but we may benefit to a small extent. The risk is that we will have trade barriers imposed within Ireland, which we haven’t had for a long time.
There is a chance that some institutions, which may decide to leave the UK, such as the European Banking Authority or the European Medicines Agency, could possibly move to Ireland. The same goes for many financial sector jobs in London dealing with the EU.
However, the disadvantages are much greater. In the modern world, what one country does, affects other countries. They did not take that into consideration during the referendum.
How would Britain’s exit influence the movement of students and trade between India and Ireland?
It is possible that some Indian students looking to Britain would look to Ireland instead, as the anti-immigration sentiment in the UK is not present in Ireland. I think we could do more to develop Irish universities to welcome students from India.
On trade: Ireland will be a good place for Indians to invest, considering we will be the only English-speaking country in the European Union after Britain’s exit.