There are no border walls or customs agents between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but there is plenty of uncertainty and the gaze of global investors as the countdown to Brexit nears its end in the week ahead.
The British exit from the European Union common trading market has highlighted the difficulty between a populous economic desire — to go it alone — and the economic reality of intertwined fortunes.
It has been more than three years since 52 percent of U.K. voters decided to leave the European Union. The work was supposed to take two years. It has cost two prime ministers their jobs, and has been postponed twice over the failure of being able to hammer out agreeable terms for withdrawal.
The border between the Northern Ireland, part of the U.K., and the country of Ireland stretches only 310 miles, but it might as well run through global investment markets. How Brexit deals with the border has been a huge challenge as the Oct. 31 deadline for a deal looms. Workarounds and special concessions create a kind of asterisk to the U.K. leaving the trading bloc.
Brexit deal or not, it has been a tortured process. Same for the talks between the Trump administration and Chinese government officials. By nature, international trade negotiations are complex. A word pairing or clause can affect fortunes for years after the ink dries, and what seems equitable today can be considered predatory tomorrow.
The International Monetary Fund has warned of a “synchronized slowdown” in the global economy. It points to “rising trade barriers and increasing geopolitical tensions” for reducing its economic growth forecast.
Multinational companies and their shareholders are eager for stability, especially for trade rules whether between the U.K. and European Union, or the U.S. and China. The Brexit deadline just adds to the induced uncertainty felt by investors.
Tom Hudson hosts “The Sunshine Economy” on WLRN-FM, where he’s vice president of news. Twitter: @HudsonsView.