Ireland sees Brexit uniting smaller EU states on benefits of trade

Ireland's Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe holds a copy of the budget on the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baltic and Nordic countries will join Ireland in becoming more vocal on the benefits of trade once market-friendly Britain leaves the bloc, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said on Monday.

While Ireland is most worried about the damage Brexit may do to its economy and border with the British province of Northern Ireland, the loss of a major pro-business country that has a big influence on financial regulation and trade is also a concern.

Dublin is responding by boosting other alliances. Donohoe joined a dinner of his Nordic and Baltic counterparts at last week’s EU finance ministers’ meeting while Prime Minister Leo Varadkar held a meeting with a similar group, plus the prime minister of the Netherlands, at a recent EU leaders’ summit.

“Many of our neighbours and friends within the European Union were quite happy to let countries like Ireland and the UK do the work on their behalf of making the public case that needed to be made,” Donohoe told Washington’s Brookings Institute at the start of a four-day trip to the United States.

“I don’t think it will be a case, necessarily, of new allies .... It’s more the need for these friendships to be now more proactively vocal than they have been in the past and more the case now that there will be an awareness that a big country has gone.”

Donohoe, whose predecessors have relied on neighbouring Britain’s support in areas such as defending its low corporate tax rate from French and German calls for greater harmonisation, said the smaller countries share strong common views.

“I think you will see Ireland working more closely with Nordic countries and with Baltic states, all of whom are small and will have strong views on the benefits of trade... believe very strongly in the benefits of multilateral institutions.”

Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg