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Post-Brexit, Ireland Faces Economic And Political Downturn


The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, called Brexit, continues to ripple across the world. And just to the west of Great Britain, it's already having an impact in Ireland. NPR's Frank Langfitt has been traveling there over the past few days. He's on the line now. Good morning, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Lynn.

NEARY: So I know it's been another volatile week in politics in the U.K., and Britain is now going to have its second female prime minister. Tell us how Britain got there.

LANGFITT: Well, the way they got there was through this Shakespearean drama. If you remember, not so long ago, Boris Johnson, the mayor - former mayor - of London was tapped to be the head of - he was going to win the prime ministership then. The man who was going to manage his campaign, was his big supporter, Michael Gove, basically ran against him and cut him off at the knees right before his announcement.

And these two women - Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, Theresa May, the home secretary - they've emerged. And they will - there'll be a vote in September by the membership of the Conservative Party to decide who's going to be the next prime minister.

NEARY: You're in Ireland now. Tell us about how Brexit is being received there.

LANGFITT: Well, it's created a lot of worry, a lot of concern in Ireland. And the big thing is the Ireland economy is so dependent on the U.K. It's - U.K.'s the biggest trading partner for Ireland. And we've already seen a fall in the British pound against the euro by around 10 percent. So the expectation is that exports like beef are going to become a lot more expensive, and so it's going to be a lot harder.

Also, there's a real concern about tourism here. About - it's only an hour and a half on the ferry from Wales here to Ireland. And so they rely a great deal on English tourism, and that's going to be much, much more expensive for people from Britain - Great Britain - to come here. So there's a real concern - kind of gloomy and a sense of uncertainty.

NEARY: What about Northern Ireland? What are the implications on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?

LANGFITT: Well, I'm glad you asked 'cause I just actually - I just drove into Dublin, and I was driving out of Belfast. And I - it's interesting. You cross the border, and there's no sign of border at all. I mean, if you - for instance, like, if you're going from New York state to Pennsylvania, there's always a welcome sign. There's nothing there.

And so tens of thousands of people go across the border every day to work - obviously a tremendous amount of trade. And so the concern is that there could be a hard border later on, once the U.K. leaves the EU. And that has people concerned about - particularly about economics and being able to work back and forth across the border as easily as they do now.

NEARY: There's also even been talk about reunification of Ireland, which I know is pretty far off. I know. Thanks for joining us this morning, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Lynn.

NEARY: NPR's Frank Langfitt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.