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Therese Raphael

Brexit Vexes Ireland, So Ireland Vexes the U.K.

These neighbors' trade and border politics are snarling divorce proceedings with Europe.
Borderless for now.

Borderless for now.

Photographer: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

No European Union country has more to lose from the U.K.’s departure from the European Union than the U.K., but Ireland comes a close second. Brexit campaigners reckoned that would be reason enough for the U.K.'s small, trade-dependent neighbor to urge its EU partners to grease the wheels for a new trade agreement that would keep barriers to a minimum. Only they miscalculated. Now, especially with reports that an agreement has been reached over Britain's divorce bill, Ireland has become the biggest obstacle to the start of trade negotiations.

The U.K. is the second-largest destination for Irish goods after the U.S. and the biggest source of Irish imports. The Dublin-London air route is Europe's most traveled. That explains why Ireland is so busy preparing for Brexit by encouraging companies to look for business outside the U.K. market (more on that shortly).