The trade agreement was presented as beneficial to the newly created Irish state, given that the remaining responsibility for land pensions under a 1925 agreement was $11.75 million (in annual repayments of $250,000 over 60 years). The seemingly favourable saving of $1,175,000 was much on the Irish side, but more than what the British would have gradually lost in 47 years if the value was easy on the basis of the present value of the money. It was convenient for both parties to close the case. The European Union has provided a very productive framework that has allowed for a more accommodating relationship. The kind of discussion that Patrick Hillery had with Lord Chalfont in the summer of 1969, when he was actually told that Ireland had to put its own affairs in mind, would now, fortunately, be unthinkable, since our two governments work closely together on northern Ireland-related issues. I believe that membership of the European Union has helped to change relations between our two countries. Before we joined in 1973, the relationship was asymmetrical. For Ireland, this was an overwhelming priority, but much less so for the United Kingdom, with its wider horizons. Prior to 1972, our trade relations were governed by the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement, in which Ireland exchanged access to the British market for British industrial products.
In 1959, the Irish government offered full duty-free access to British industrial products when Irish agricultural products were treated on the same level in the Uk market. This offer was rejected by London because it offered too much advantage to Ireland. This shows the nature of free trade agreements, which are competitive and unsymtalring. He estimated that the one-year negotiations with the Republic, “almost complete” by December, would culminate with a trade agreement “fully compatible with the GATT provisions” on the movement of all commercial, agricultural and industrial products between the two countries. Conflicts are costly and reckless – and in Anglo-Irish relations, the patience of living with problems has more often proved to be a better strategy than escalating differences of opinion. The Anglo-Irish trade war of 1932-1938 began with Valera`s refusal to repay loans secured before independence to the British Treasury. The British responded by imposing a 20% tax on all Irish imports into the UK – which at the time accounted for almost all Irish exports. The result was a severe economic recession that only led the Irish economy to under-impress a protectionist trade policy for another generation, which hindered national industrial development and, essentially, led many to emigrate from Ireland. When I studied history at the University of Cork in the 1970s, my studies of Irish history were marked by the Anglo-Irish dimension.
I specialized in the history of the 19th and 20th centuries from the Act of Union of 1800 to the realization and consolidation of Irish independence in the 1920s and 1930s. My studies have highlighted Anglo-Irish relations as a permanent problem for both nations. Even the description of Irish literature in English as Anglo-Irish literature was controversial.