Saturday 21 April 2018

Kenny moves to ease Irish firms' concerns over possible Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke

Sarah Collins and Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to calm fears of Irish business about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.

Speaking ahead of last night's key summit in Brussels, the Fine Gael leader said proposals tabled by British Prime Minister David Cameron were "in Ireland's interest".

"Clearly Irish manufacturers who are exporters have concerns about this, in the sense that they are unaware of what might happen when a referendum is held," Mr Kenny told reporters ahead of the meeting, which is expected to run through the night.

"So we want to reassure everybody that this is in Ireland's interest, it's in Britain's interest and most of all it's in Europe's interest," he added.

The measures being sought by Mr Cameron's government, ahead of an expected referendum in June, were supported by the Cabinet at a meeting in Government Buildings yesterday.

The position he will take in the campaign hinges on a deal to change EU rules in four areas: restricting welfare payments for EU workers, introducing a brake on eurozone decisions that could affect the City of London, and signing pledges on national sovereignty and "competitiveness".

Mr Cameron needs a win on all four issues so that he can campaign in favour of the UK remaining in the EU in the referendum, which sources say is most likely to be held by the end of June.

"We will back up the claim that Britain should remain a central member of the European Union, and I do hope that it can be concluded tomorrow so that the prime minister can make his timing of a referendum known to the British people," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Kenny said the three open issues on the table were the eurozone question, which is a problem for France; welfare curbs, which are controversial for central and eastern European countries; and the issue of national sovereignty, where Britain is asking for an opt-out from the EU treaty principle of "ever closer union".

European lawyers, officials and diplomats have been working behind the scenes on set of decisions that British Prime Minister David Cameron can tout as a win at home, but that don't rankle other governments in the process.

Shaping up to be most controversial is a demand to link child benefit payments for EU workers to the cost of living in the country where their children live.

Under the draft deal, the option to limit payments would also be open to the any other EU government, including Ireland.

Speaking following yesterday's Cabinet meeting in Dublin, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Ireland is "unashamedly supportive" of Britain remaining in the European Union,

Mr Noonan also confirmed that the Government has drawn up a paper assessing the potential effects of a 'Brexit' - but insisted it is not a "contingency plan" per se.

And the Fine Gael politician also voiced concerns surrounding the impact a 'Brexit' could have on Northern Ireland.

Irish Independent

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