Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kenny admits we may have to hold another EU referendum

Merkel praises our progress

Donal O'Donovan in Brussels

IRELAND was praised by Germany last night as Taoiseach Enda Kenny conceded that he may have to hold another referendum to approve new changes to European treaties.

The rare praise for Ireland from Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech in the Berlin parliament came as she sought to persuade her own followers that helping European countries could work. It appeared to show that relations between Berlin and Dublin are thawing further.

"Ireland -- more than anywhere -- is once again on a good course," Ms Merkel said during an epic battle in the Bundestag, where she won backing to negotiate changes to the European bailout funds.

Her comments will be music to Mr Kenny's ears as he seeks to separate Ireland and Greece in the minds of investors, other European leaders and the voters here.

Earlier, the Taoiseach had been forced to admit to the Dail that he now believed some of the changes agreed over the past few days could require another referendum here -- something that could prove a headache for the Government as the electorate struggles with further austerity.

He said: "In regard to the discussions I heard on Sunday and in which I participated, 90pc (of the proposed measures) can be dealt with without any treaty change," he told TDs.

Mr Kenny said it had been agreed that the eurozone would look at the governance of the way it does its business and would report back in December about the possibility of limited treaty change.

"I stress limited treaty change," he added.


Just a few days ago, he had told the Dail he did not see the need for a fresh referendum.

When the Taoiseach arrived in Brussels yesterday, he dampened down hopes that a fully fleshed-out scheme would emerge, promising instead a clear road map.

He said he hoped the talks would conclude with "a clear intent" on how leaders would tackle the euro debt crisis. There had been "some progress" since Sunday, he said.

In pragmatic language, Mr Kenny spelled out the line-by-line negotiations that are currently under way.

He added: "Clearly, leaders will have their own points of view, but the important thing is that the full flexibility of the facilities already approved will bring certainty and certainty of intent for everybody."

Ahead of the talks, the Government softened its attitude on issues dear to the German chancellor and her Dutch counterpart, including enhanced scrutiny of national budgets by the European Commission and other countries.

Ireland is believed to have backed a deal that will see EU President Herman Von Rompouy review the German wish list, with a view to changing the Lisbon Treaty if other leaders accept the conclusion.

For its part, Germany appears to have conceded that European Central Bank will be needed to battle the debt crisis for some time to come.

The Taoiseach's main objective is to secure backing for a deal that lets Ireland make use of a souped-up bailout as the country moves out of the current bailout programme.

Progress on making the bailout fund more flexible, including by guaranteeing the bonds of governments, is seen as crucial.

Brendan Keenan

Irish Independent

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