Ireland backs EU reform if it stops a Brexit
Published 09/11/2015 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to tell British business leaders that the European Union can be reformed without the need for treaty changes that could spark a referendum here.
Mr Kenny will today begin his campaign for Britain to stay in the EU by outlining Ireland's support for an overhaul of how the union works.
He will tell an audience of influential business people in London that significant change can be brought about "within existing legal frameworks".
There has been some concern that the changes to how the EU operates could involve rewriting treaties, which would then have to be ratified by all 27 member states, including Ireland, where it would have to be put to a referendum.
But Mr Kenny's statement will be interpreted as the Irish Government indicating it will work to find ways of supporting British-led reform inside the existing rules.
At the same time, Tánaiste Joan Burton will be making a speech at a European Movement event in Dublin, where she will say that it is "perfectly legitimate" for UK citizens to have doubts about the union.
In his speech at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Kenny will refer to the "significant" funding Northern Ireland has received under the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland between 2007 and 2013.
And he will claim that there are 200,000 UK jobs predicated on the UK's relationship with Ireland.
After his address at Grosvenor House, Mr Kenny will travel the short distance to 10 Downing Street where he will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron is putting the final touches to a letter that he is expected to send to the European Council President Donal Tusk tomorrow, setting out what reforms his government feels are necessary to convince the UK public to vote against a Brexit within the next two years.
Among his demands will be that Britain can opt out from the EU ambition to forge an "ever closer union" and greater powers for national parliaments to block EU legislation.
Britain also wants new mechanisms to be put in place to "prevent vast migrations across the continent".
Mr Cameron will make a speech to the House of Commons tomorrow, in which he will say: "If we can't reach such an agreement [on reforms], and if Britain's concerns were to be met with a deaf ear, which I do not believe will happen, then we will have to think again about whether this European Union is right for us.
"As I have said before - I rule nothing out."
It is unusual for the leaders of other countries to become involved in a national referendum, but at the CBI conference the Taoiseach will describe Ireland as "a friend and close trading partner" who has a "new, mature relationship" with Britain.
He will say that Ireland has "three key things" in common with Britain: support for the single market, the digital single market and better trading opportunities.
Mr Kenny will outline the progress Ireland has made in its economic recovery and say it is "acknowledged that the economic fallout from Britain leaving the EU would not be good for Ireland". He will describe such a result of the British referendum as a "strategic risk".
A source said Mr Kenny will be keen to stress that it is up to the British people to decide their own future, but Ireland wants them to "remain at the heart of Europe".
Meanwhile, Ms Burton will tell an audience in Dublin that Irish people felt that solidarity from Brussels "was absent" during the worst of the economic crisis.
"They saw policy being dictated from the centre, and this jarred with everything they thought the EU was supposed to be," she will say.
The Labour Party leader will admit to having doubts of her own following the EU's initial response to the crisis but will conclude that "we're stronger working together than going our separate ways".