Wednesday 21 March 2018

Dawn deal: AG to decide on referendum after EU summit reporters

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny could not rule out the necessity for a referendum on a new European treaty as part of a plan hatched today in Brussels aimed at solving the debt crisis and saving the euro.

Speaking after a gruelling overnight Summit meeting, attended by the 27-EU leaders, he told reporters that legal analysis of the proposals will "begin immediately" ahead of drafts being drawn up in March.

He would not be drawn on a timeframe for Attorney General Marie Whelan to assess the inter-governmental treaty that will not include Britain after David Cameron walked away from talks last night.

"This is a matter a lot of countries have to consider and in our country the attorney general will give legal advice on issues of substance on language on what has been agreed," he said today.

"A great deal of technical and legal work has to be done and other countries have same the requirement."

However, it is understood that the new treaty could be introduced under the existing treaty framework without constitutional changes which would lead to the Irish electorate deciding the move.

Given the Irish history of rejecting referendums and some of the unpopular decisions the new Fine Gael-led government has inherited and had to take in the recent budget, it is also understood that Ms Whelan's analysis would include an investigation into how existing treaties, like Masstricht, could be used to enforce new disciplines without a referendum.

These include intrusive supervision of future budgets.

They also provide for strict policing of the budget deficit rule of 3pc of Gross Domestic Product by 2015.

But the future of the euro is still uncertain as investors digest the deal done in Brussels to write a new treaty, the text of which has yet to be seen.

As part of the ongoing negotiations, Mr Kenny said he is pushing for a reduction on our €63bn in banking debt as part of an agreement on tough new rules for euro membership, which could be put to a referendum in Ireland.

The reduction, of between €15bn and €20bn, focuses mainly on debt that is still owed in relation to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

This debt is €31bn and large annual payments of €3bn per annum kick in in 2013 and reductions would be achieved through extending the payment timeframe and reducing the interest rates due.

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