British have tried to copy 'best parts' of Irish economy, says chairman of Conservative Party
The British government has gone out of its way to copy the “best parts” of the Irish economy, the chairman of the UK Conservative Party has said.
Grant Shapps suggested to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce conference in Dublin that Britain reduced its corporation tax rate to 20pc because of the success of the 12.5pc rate here.
“There is so much about the dynamism in the Irish economy that Britain, in the last five years, under this Conservative-led government, has spent time learning about,” he said.
“It is no secret that George Osborne, David Cameron, myself and others in the Cabinet in the British government have deliberately gone out of our way to try to learn from the best things that are happening in the Irish economy.
“We were impressed at the way you were able to both reduce corporation tax and increase the number of firms who want to base themselves in Ireland.
“So, over the last five years, we’ve gone out of our way to copy the best parts of the Irish economy including reducing our own corporation tax in what will be the joint lowest in the G20.”
Mr Shapps also laid out the Conservative Party’s argument for reforming the EU ahead of a potential in-out referendum in 2017.
“The British centre ground has now an understanding, or a belief, that the European Union has got a bit too big, a bit to bossy and a bit too interfering in every day life,” Mr Shapps said.
“If we ignore that, rather than somehow just progress as things have always been, instead what we will be doing is ignoring the legitimate rights of the British voting public.
“And every political party in Britain understands that at this time.”
On the principle of the free movement of people, he said a country within the EU should have control over the number of people entering it.
“It must be the case that a sovereign country has some kind of control over the flows of people simply for practical reasons, housing, welfare and the National Health Service,” he said.
“We want to propose that people shouldn’t be able to move around the European Union for welfare, but only in fact for work.”
Mr Shapps later told the Irish Independent that in the case of a referendum, Europe will want Britain to stay in the EU and Britain will also want to remain if it gets the reforms it is pushing for.
“We are certain that Europe is going to want to negotiate with us and get to a position on reform which will then be acceptable to the British people,” Mr Shapps said.
“But, in the end, the British people must get the final say.”
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell told the conference that a British exit from the EU would spell “disaster” for both islands, especially in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland, in many ways, is the most economically vulnerable bit of these islands,” Mr McDonnell said.
He predicted that while common travel between Ireland and the UK would remain if the event of a British exit, there would be restrictions in the border regions for goods and services.
“The changes to the freedom of movement would also have a devastating impact on our common economy.”