Wednesday 20 September 2017

No vote will cut off access to EU bailout funds, says watchdog

Fionnan Sheahan, Caroline Crawford and Edel O'Connell

AN independent referendum watchdog is to back the Government's claim that access to the EU bailout fund will be cut off by a No vote to the EU fiscal treaty.

As the referendum campaign kicks off properly, the Coalition will also get a boost today when the country's largest farming organisation, the IFA, weighs in heavily behind a Yes vote.

But ministers are currently bogged down in a dispute over where the Government will be able to access funds if the country needs a second bailout.

The Government is fighting with the No camp over whether the passing of the EU fiscal- treaty referendum is needed to guarantee the safety net of funding -- and if the IMF would continue to provide loans anyway.

Blunt

The Coalition's own leaflet, being delivered to every house in the country this week, says bluntly it is "necessary to ratify the treaty to continue to be able to access" the EU bailout fund.

But this claim about the bailout fund is disputed by Sinn Fein on the No side.

The independent Referendum Commission will support the Government's view by stating the treaty says access to the fund is based upon ratification.

The commission is sending out its own information leaflet next week, in which the question of access to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will be addressed.

"The treaty says that if a country wants funding from the ESM, they will only be able to access it if they ratify the treaty," a spokesman said.

The watchdog is avoiding the political and legal dispute, by simply sticking to the text of the treaty.

But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said last night the Government was engaging in "calculated scare tactics of citizens" and a No vote does not mean the country is locked out of the EU bailout funds.

"This is nothing more than an empty threat being used to get people to support a treaty that, judged on its own merits, would not secure popular support," he said.

The Government is also fighting a rearguard action against claims IMF funding could still be used if a second bailout is needed.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore admitted the Government would still be able to apply to the IMF if the treaty was rejected, but explained this wasn't the full story.

Emergency

"The only emergency funding that is definitely available to this country is the European Stability Mechanism.

"You can apply to the IMF but you won't necessarily get anything and if you do get anything you don't know what the conditions are going to be.

"You can always make an application to the bank for a loan but the bank doesn't have to give it to you," he said.

This morning, IFA president John Bryan will lead the launch of the farming and agri-business Yes campaign.

After the Labour Party failed to get the trade-union movement on board, the backing of the farming lobby will be viewed as highly important, particularly for Fine Gael.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will launch Fine Gael's own campaign later in the day. Mr Kenny warned the country's ability to attract new businesses will rely on the stability provided by a Yes vote .

Irish Independent

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