Saturday 25 March 2017

UK keen on alliance with Kenny to combat EU

Reason behind PM's visit was to work closely on 'European agenda'

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

The British Prime Minister David Cameron is "seeking to capitalise" on rising anti- European sentiment within Ireland to form a "grand alliance" with Enda Kenny's Government to counter the current dominance of Germany and France.

The Sunday Independent has confirmed that it was Mr Cameron who instigated his highly significant appearance here in Dublin during Queen Elizabeth's successful state visit last week.

It is highly unusual for a prime minister to accompany the Queen on a foreign visit, and sources in London have said Britain is seeking to capitalise on Ireland's current difficulties to form an "anti-German and French" alliance.

From the Irish side, given the deep "unhappiness" about the current treatment of Ireland by the EU Commission and the European Central Bank, there appears a strong willingness to develop deeper ties with Britain not just on trade but politically.

Speaking yesterday to the Sunday Independent, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who will be central to Ireland's new relationship with Britain, said there was a strong commitment now to work much closer with Britain on the "European agenda".

He said: "William Hague and I did discuss and will discuss how the two governments can work more closely together. Clearly, we have talked of the need for both countries to work more closely on the European agenda," he said.

When asked what form that would take, he said: "We will be in closer contact ahead of meetings to discuss how issues on the European agenda impact on us. We will talk to each other a lot about the EU issues."

Mr Gilmore also said that while Ireland appreciates the support we are receiving from the EU and the ECB, he said there were two key issues that he and the Government were "not happy about".

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"Firstly, we are not happy that the reduction in the interest rate to Ireland, which has been agreed, still hasn't been made available to us, and the British are supportive of Ireland in this instance.

"Secondly, we are not happy with the situation of [the continued attacks on] our corporation tax rate. Again, we have the support of the British to exert our right to set our own rate."

The Taoiseach's department confirmed that it was Mr Cameron who initiated his presence here in Dublin last week. A spokesman said: "The Taoiseach and the prime minister agreed when they last met to hold a meeting [in Dublin]. With the Queen's visit taking place, the prime minister suggested that this may be an appropriate time to have the meeting."

This four-day visit concluded with Ireland at the centre of a war of words between the EU and the IMF.

In hard-hitting remarks, on Friday, Ajai Chopra, deputy director of IMF Europe, warned that Ireland needed more "support'' from its European partners to meet its current debt challenges.

The comments came as worries continued to grow that without a change of stance from Europe, the Irish plan could unravel.

Mr Chopra said that while Ireland was "on track", the €85bn plan may not be "sufficient'' to allow the country back into the international money markets.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble has attacked those within Ireland, Portugal and Greece who have said the current policies being adopted by Europe are unworkable.

He said that these countries must do what's best for the "common currency".

"It is essential that the European Monetary Union's institutional structures are capable of obliging euro members to adopt a fiscal and budgetary policy that reflects their responsibility for the common currency," he said.

The growing unease about the relationship with Europe is reflected in the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll, which shows that a majority of people believe it is more important to have a good relationship with the United Kingdom than with Europe.

According to the poll, 56 per cent said given that Britain was our closest neighbour and main trading partner, developing closer ties was more important.

An overwhelming proportion -- 91 per cent -- also said they thought Mr Cameron and Mr Hague were here to "ensure a closer economic and political alliance" between Ireland and Britain.

Sunday Independent

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