A Post Brexit Northern Ireland Could Follow the Hong Kong Model

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), July 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

A Post Brexit Northern Ireland Could Follow the Hong Kong Model


Having spent 30 years working in enterprise oriented Asia it has been fascinating to be home to witness the post Brexit political turmoil and economic uncertainty in entitlement-oriented Europe.

We live in troubling times, with no easy answers and constant amplification of conflict.

However, as the Chinese have long recognised within every crisis there is opportunity.

The referendum shock was a little deja vu for me.

I was close at hand when Mrs Thatcher tripped up in Beijing in August 1983, shocked to hear China would not extend its 99 year lease to Britain of the New Territories in Hong Kong (HK).

Currency and markets crashed and a 'Leave' reality had to be imagined.

The 'Leave' answer then was a 50-year transition, initiated on July 1 1997. Best described as 'One Country, Two Systems' and known as 'The Handover,' an interweaving of two diametrically opposed ideologies, communism and capitalism.

Nineteen years on and it is still on track, not without issues but demonstrating that pragmatism can trump ideologue.

Can we learn anything from this admittedly different transition?

The hard part for change-resistant NI, post Brexit, is thinking outside the box and not clinging to traditional demands from any side of our political legacy.

Ian Paisley Jnr recommending that the entitled in NI should apply, for pragmatic, not political reasons for an Irish passport shows we are starting to travel in open-minded uplands.

NI voted Remain and millennials (those born after 1980) endorsed that throughout the UK, but the Brexiteers won. a[umlaut]The pragmatic new prime minister Theresa May despite siding with the Remain campaign, has stated "Brexit means Brexit", but wisely declined this week in Belfast to define that more precisely.

Can NI do that itself?

It would pay to try rather than only be shaped by external factors.

My proposal is that NI pushes for special associate status in the EU whilst maintaining its sovereign links to the UK and comprehensive commercial ties via open borders with the Republic.

Also NI should selectively build further its own global trade and tourism links, capitalising on NI connections worldwide (USA particularly) but also looking East to the big markets of the future. …

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