Saturday 1 October 2016

Government confident 2016 Budget will not fall foul of EU rules

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Published 09/11/2015 | 17:25

Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem (2nd L) greets Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan (R) while German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) looks on at a euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, November 9, 2015
Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem (2nd L) greets Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan (R) while German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) looks on at a euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, November 9, 2015

The Government is confident that the 2016 budget will not fall foul of EU rules after receiving positive indications from Brussels.

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Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said today  that the budget “will be acceptable within the European rules", despite warnings from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council about €1.5 billion in extra spending for next year.

“We’ve already sent the full budget details and a lot of backup information to the Commission and the indications are that our budget is entirely acceptable to the Commission,” Mr Noonan told reporters on his way into a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels today [MON]. “The Commission have assured us informally that our budget is totally in accord with the fiscal rules and they are quite happy with the approach we’re taking."

Officials from the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are in Dublin this week for a routine health check on Ireland’s economy following the bailout programme, which expired in December 2013.

But Mr Noonan insisted that the EU and IMF officials have "no role in assessing the budget”. “That’s directly between ourselves and the Commission,” he said.

“The primary purpose of the post-programme assessment is to see can Ireland continue to pay its debts,” he said. “And, of course, we’re absolutely confident that we are in a very strong position to repay the debts,” he added.

The European Commission is due to deliver an opinion on Ireland’s 2016 budget plan in the next two weeks. The EU-IMF mission will report separately.

Mr Noonan added that he was “very pleased” with the Commission’s latest growth forecasts for Ireland, published last week, which estimated Ireland’s economy will expand by 6pc this year, more than three times the EU average. “It’s good to get the outside endorsement of the macro policies we’re following,” he said.

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