Wednesday 21 February 2018

Top EU official warns Ireland has no right to cut special deal

Jyrki Katainen. Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg...I
Jyrki Katainen. Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg...I
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

One of the EU's most senior officials has said the European Commission has "no policy" on giving Ireland special consideration in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen has conceded that small countries are "more vulnerable" to the fallout of the UK referendum, but said it's "too early" to say if Ireland will be given the freedom to work out its own bilateral deal with Britain.

Mr Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister, has said a key priority for the Commission is to maintain stability.

But he warned: "Small countries are sometimes more vulnerable than the others in terms of financial instability."

On whether or not Ireland will be allowed to do its own deal with the UK, the Commissioner for Jobs said: "It's too early to take any position on this. The Commission doesn't have any policy on this."

He said the issue of when the UK will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the law that allows countries to leave the EU - is the first item to be negotiated. After that, the future relations between EU member states and Britain will be dealt with.

"I don't even want to speculate what will happen or what position the UK will have vis-a-vis the EU in the future. Time will show," he said.

He also told the Irish Independent that the Commission has no policy on whether or not it supports the retention of Ireland's corporate tax rate.

Asked if he was concerned that Ireland might leave the EU if it came under pressure to increase the 12.5pc rate by other member states, Mr Katainen replied: "There is no reason why we should speculate on these kinds of issues. As I said there is no pressure from us when it comes to the corporate tax rate in Ireland."

He praised Ireland's success in its economic recovery.

"Ireland, as we all know, has successfully come out of the [bailout] programme...Ireland has done a good job stabilising the economic situation.

"That is the reason why the growth has returned to Ireland. It's a good example to other countries that if you are doing right, but sometimes very, very difficult and even socially very costly measures, you can regain the confidence back."

Elsewhere, the European Commission has also said discussions about the future of the border with the North are "premature". A spokesman said the issue will only be discussed after the UK enacts Article 50.

"It would be very premature now at this stage to assess specific consequences in specific policy areas," the spokesman said, when asked it future arrangements will involve a policed border with barriers and customs controls.

Mr Katainen echoed Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying Britain should leave the EU quickly.

Irish Independent

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