BRITAIN'S trade and investment minister has insisted the UK is the most enthusiastic proponent of the single market, claiming the debate about its relationship with the EU is often defined by what it is against.
In an interview with the Irish Independent on the margins of the IBEC CEO conference yesterday, Lord Livingston said that in matters of the single market, Britons were "probably the most passionate Europeans around".
Lord Livingston, the former chief executive of BT Group until his ministerial appointment last year, said he believed few voters in the UK would vote to pull out of the single market.
"There's a tendency that the UK's relationship with the EU is defined by what we're against often," the minister said. "We are probably the most enthusiastic proponents of completing the single market, which is a key tenant of Europe, and actually making sure that countries that don't follow single market rules are brought into line."
He said the UK wanted a pro-business, pro-entrepreneurship, pro-competition and growth EU and not one "that is focusing endlessly on more and more rules".
David Cameron has said he is committed to holding an in-out vote in 2017. "The prime minister has said he will campaign to stay in Europe given the right deal – I would be fully supportive of that," Lord Livingston said. "We want to stay in Europe, we want to stay in the right Europe. Very few people in the UK would say they want to pull out of the single market. In matters of the single market, we are probably the most passionate Europeans around."
On tax avoidance, Lord Livingston said rules had to be tightened up.
But he wouldn't be drawn specifically on the double Irish.
"I think what we should look at is more getting the tax place aligned to where economic activity is," he said.
"That is the UK's major problem. We support low corporate tax rates because we think it encourages innovation."
Lord Livingston, pictured above with Enda Kenny, said that the net cost to the exchequer of bringing down corporate tax rates was very low.
He said Britain was not threatened by Ireland's 12.5pc rate, saying it was "quite comfortable with that".