Hard Brexit ‘not a realistic expectation’, says Ray O’Rourke

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Hard Brexit ‘not a realistic expectation’, says Ray O’Rourke
Hard Brexit ‘not a realistic expectation’, says Ray O’Rourke

A leading Irish businessman in the UK has warned the country faces social unrest if Brexit occurs without a deal with the EU.

Ray O’Rourke, the largest shareholder in the privately-owned Laing O’Rourke construction company, says that he cannot see the UK going down the road of a hard Brexit at the end of trade negotiations.

“I don’t think that a hard Brexit is a realistic expectation,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“I don’t think that the hard Brexiteers will get a say in this and will just have to come to terms with the idea that we need a relationship on a number of fronts.

“If we don’t have a relationship with Europe [the next prime minister] could run the risk of civil unrest. It would inflame the people who want to remain.”

Mr O’Rourke, a native of Co Mayo who arrived in London to work on building sites 53 years ago, also points out that a hard Brexit would begin to drag the UK down the road towards the kind of populism that is spreading across the globe.

“There is a critical point here about geopolitical issues,” he said.

If you look at what is going on the USA, Hong Kong, parts of Europe, this populist approach is dangerous. We do need a balanced approach.

He also believes Ireland has a crucial role to play in ensuring that an agreement is forged between the UK after Brexit and the EU.

“We have to understand as Irish people that the UK has been our shelter for a long time,” he said,” he says.

“Even in the banking crisis, the UK was the first to step in with a €7 or €8bn facility. Obviously that was not a freebie. We have to look at the relationship we have north and south and the importance of that. That’s what will leverage the conversation going forward.”

Mr O’Rourke set up his own construction business O’Rourke & Son in 1978 but he came to prominence in the UK when he bought the ailing Laing business in 2002, which had been one of the most prominent, prestigious companies in the UK over the previous century.

Following that purchase, Laing O’Rourke expanded rapidly. It now operates throughout the globe and is the largest privately-owned company in the business.

He does not agree with various forecasts that the UK could go into recession following Brexit. but rather that “there will be a huge tsunami of opportunities”.

Source: Full Feed