Former UKIP leader says a Brexit-style vote in Ireland would be ‘a close run thing’.
Nigel Farage has suggested that Ireland could vote to leave the European Union if it held a referendum similar to the one Britain experienced in June.
He argued that it was be “a close run thing” if it was put to a ballot, citing Ireland’s history with EU treaties and the situation regarding its corporation tax.
Mr Farage explained that increasing pressure from Brussels to increase corporation tax in Ireland could cause a shift in attitude towards the EU.
“I don’t buy the fact that Ireland is now a pro-European country,” he told the Agenda programme on TV3.
“You are the only member state of the EU that has rejected two treaties in referendums. “I think Irish public opinion is now very similar to British public opinion. I suspect if there was a referendum on Ireland’s future, it would be a close run thing.”
The former UKIP leader referred to Ireland’s low corporation tax, which, at 12.5 per cent, is seen as a vital tool in attracting foreign direct investment. He explained how EU leaders in Brussels are seeking to reduce Ireland’s competitive advantage by harmonising rates across Europe.
It is likely that this would harm the amount of revenue generated in Ireland and Mr Farage believes that would lead to a shift in attitude towards the EU.
“I worked in Brussels for 17 years. They do not like your level of corporation tax, which is why they will move towards what they call a CCCTB [common consolidated corporate tax base],” he said. “You will, over the next few years, lose your big competitive advantage. And when that happens, the debate in Ireland about EU membership will change.”
He also spoke of US President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to move towards protectionist policies when it comes to large corporations.
“As Trump goes in that direction, as the UK undoubtedly goes in that direction, of lower tax rates, Ireland is about to go for higher corporation tax rates.
“Not because the Government wants it, not because the Dáil wants it, not because the people want it, but because that’s what Brussels wants,” he said.
The 52-year-old also mentioned the comments made by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams during the 2001 Nice referendum and the 2008 Lisbon referendum. He argued that Mr Adams’ remarks about EU governance shows that there are people in Ireland who want more autonomy in its overall decision-making.
“I remember Gerry Adams saying in both of those referendums saying ‘we didn’t fight the British for 500 years to have Ireland governed by the EU,” Mr Farage said. “And I thought, I’m not a Gerry Adams supporter but actually, what he’s saying is completely and utterly logical.
“Irish nationalism actually made some sense. They wanted Ireland to be an independent, self-governing, democratic nation.”