I congratulate the Minister of State on his reappointment and wish him every good luck and success.
This is certainly a very worrying time for everybody. Even though we were all preparing, we still did not expect the vote to go the way it did. The European Union, formally created in 1993 after decades of international co-operation between the countries of Europe, has provided an exceptional outlet in the free movement of goods, services and individuals, creating an economically strong and vibrant Europe. For the United Kingdom to move away from these values in favour of its own independent policies, formed without regulation from the rest of its community, is certainly an upset to our society.
I very much respect democracy and I respect people's right to vote, but the decision by the British people to leave the European Union will have effects far beyond its borders. We will also be affected by this action. With the removal of the UK from the EU trade channels, it will become more difficult for Irish producers to export their goods across the Irish Sea, resulting in a potential decrease in bilateral trade flows between the two countries and also a drop in the total merchandise exports from Ireland, disproportionately affecting the basic and fabricated metal, agricultural, forestry, fishing, food and beverage, and textile sectors.
Trade is not the only area affected by the British exit. With its departure, foreign direct investment into the UK is likely to fall, leading to lower productivity and lower growth which will in turn also negatively affect Ireland, I am afraid.
I hope the movement of workers between Ireland and the United Kingdom is not at risk. Given previous EU migration laws this has not been a problem, but now it is possible that the UK could impose restrictions on Irish citizens working in the UK, creating great upset and inconvenience for our citizens. Furthermore, migrants, who had been bound for the UK, may now come to Ireland, with research suggesting an average wage fall of 3.9%, with workers in high-skilled positions experiencing a 5% wage decrease.
Politicians and the business community have to deal with the political reality we now have. We must try to make the most of the situation. While it is a bad situation, with intelligence and determination and everybody pulling together, we have to come out of this with the negative effects minimised.
I was concerned that the price of beef would be low in September or October. Now with this UK decision I can see it being further negatively affected. As the Minister of State is aware, the farming community is on its knees. One thing which was always true about farming was that irrespective of what was happening with beef or sheep, those milking cows had an income. However, that is no longer the case. It is tragic that dairy farmers are losing money every day. I am afraid that Brexit will compound that problem. These family farms are really struggling for survival. If the price of beef were to go lower than I had anticipated for autumn, it would lead to a crisis in that sector. That is one concern we need to try to address.
I look forward to the European Union affairs committee getting its structures in place in the coming weeks. I know that all the members of that committee look forward to working with the Minister of State. I believe it will be us, as Ireland Incorporated, working together in unity in whatever way we can to mitigate the negative consequences of Brexit.
In recent days the Taoiseach was out fighting our corner with the other EU leaders. To say that this is unprecedented and something out of this world altogether is not an overreaction or an exaggeration. If a man had placed a bet with Paddy Power at the start of the year that the United Kingdom would leave the EU and that Donald Trump would become President of America, he would have got some odds. There was money to be made. The first part has come true, whatever about the second part.
On a serious note, I hope the committee will be able to work with the Minister of State in ensuring we try our best to ensure Irish people working in Britain are taken care of in the best possible way and that our trade and our tourism figures will not go down as a result of this. I certainly hope that will not happen. It is a very unusual time to say the least. Politically there is an onus on all of us to pull together and do everything we can for the citizens of Ireland.