‘Please Don’t Go’
• UK departure from EU brings risks for all, Taoiseach Enda Kenny tells Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
• Says UK staying in a reformed EU is ‘win, win’ for all as Cameron sends his demands to Brussels ahead of poll
• ‘Brexit could set back peace NI process by many years’
Ireland’s financial recovery is good news for Britain, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Britain’s bosses at the CBI conference this week.
He said that Irish voters’ commitment to the EU is unqualified and absolute but fully understood the choice of whether or not the UK stays in the EU is exclusively a matter for the British people.
“I fully accept and understand that the decision will not be made on the basis of its economic impact on other jurisdictions,” he said.
But as Britain’s “friend, closest neighbour and only EU partner with whom it shares a land border” he felt it right to say that Brexit is not in Ireland’s economic interest.
Britain exports more to Ireland than it does to China, India and Brazil combined, he told the 700 delegates.
Given such strong links it was hardly surprising that Ireland regards the prospect of the UK leaving the EU as a major strategic risk.
“In truth, the full risks are unknown as much would depend on the detail of what a ‘Brexit’ process would actually look like. However, it is an outcome that the Irish Government does not wish to see materialise at all.
“I have no doubt that continued British membership of the European Union is good for Ireland and for relationships on these islands. Moreover, I believe that continued British membership of the EU is in Britain’s own best interests. But that is for the British people to decide. The case for that position is being made effectively here by groups and individuals directly involved in the issues as they affect Britain.The stakes are too high for the voice of business not to be heard in this debate,” said Mr. Kenny.
He urged his audience and the wider UK to reflect on what the European Union had achieved from the wreckage of World War Two.
“For over sixty years, the EU has contributed hugely to the healing of a broken and divided continent. But the Union could do better. It has been subjected to unprecedented challenges in recent times. We need to look critically at what we do at EU level and how we do it, to ensure the best deal for all our citizens. It is in all of our interests to make the Union function more effectively.
“It is already moving in that direction. Last year, the European Council agreed a Strategic Agenda which focuses on growth, competitiveness and jobs,” he said.
“Similarly, the Commission has drastically reduced the number of legislative proposals. It is subjecting existing regulation to more intense scrutiny and scrapping or amending wherever appropriate.
Ireland’s economic policy priorities within the EU are strikingly similar to those of the UK, and of other outward-looking, open and liberal partners,” said Mr. Kenny.
Britain and Ireland are close and share vital interests within the EU although there are some differences of priorities, he admitted.
“There are important differences, including our strong support for a modern, efficient and suitably-funded Common Agricultural Policy. Our adoption and unquestioned commitment to the euro as our currency is another.
“However, like the UK, we are focussed on strengthening and completing the Single Market; on building a real Digital Single Market; and on expanding the Union’s network of trade relationships across the globe.
“The Single Market provides a critically important framework for the free flow of goods, services and capital.
“Quite simply, we can do much more collectively given the overall scale of the European economy, than on our own.
“Looking at the Single Market, Digital Single Market and Trade Agreements, it is clear that ongoing cooperation between the UK and Ireland will be important.
“We, and indeed other partners, want to continue working with the UK – a UK which is committed to staying and fighting its corner.
We look forward to hearing very shortly more about the British reform agenda.
“I have always been clear that Ireland will be open and pragmatic when it comes to sensible proposals to improve the EU – where the UK seeks reasonable and achievable adjustments, we will be sympathetic and supportive.
“We appreciate the concerns of the UK – and other non-Euro countries – in this area and will look carefully and constructively at whatever is proposed (but) in advance of detailed proposals it is difficult to be definitive on the other questions which have been raised.
“I believe that it should be possible, although sometimes not easy, to reach agreed and reasonable outcomes across the board.
Kenny on Irish Recovery
Mr Kenny outlined the key points of Ireland’s recovery:
Ireland was the fastest-growing economy in the EU last year. The European Commission forecasts the same again this year.
GDP growth of 5.2 per cent in 2014 – Ireland’s strongest annual growth since 2007.
Export growth at 12.1 per cent was the strongest since 2001.
Government budget deficit reduced from a peak of 12.5 per cent of GDP in 2011 to an expected 1.2 per cent next year.
Target is to eliminate it altogether in 2018 and deliver a balanced budget.
Unemployment at a six-year low of 9.3 per cent in October, down from a high of over 15 per cent in 2012.
About €1 billion worth of goods and services are traded between UK and Ireland countries every week.
The UK exports more to Ireland than it does to China, India and Brazil combined.
Ireland is the UK’s 5th largest market: more than £14 billion pounds worth of British goods and services were exported to Ireland in 2012 and Ireland buys more British food and non-alcoholic drinks than any other country – over £3 billion pounds annually.
Over 200,000 UK jobs depend on exports to Ireland.
The UK is the third largest investor in Ireland, after the USA and Germany.
The Dublin – London air route is the second busiest international corridor in the world with 3.6 million passengers travelling between the capital cities in 2013.
EU good for peace process
Mr. Kenny, in a speech last September in Cambridge cautioned that the return of border checkpoints in Northern Ireland arising from Brexit could set back the peace process, repeated his warnings that leaving would be bad for the North.
He said the EU was instrumental in supporting contacts and negotiations throughout the peace process and provided almost €2.4 billion euro in funding from 2007 to 2013 to help Northern Ireland overcome the challenges of being a peripheral region that has emerged from conflict.
He called for cooperation to build the island economy through overseas investment, trade, tourism, and a competitive, common corporation tax rate.
“Now is not the time to weaken the cohesive, stabilising influence and outward focus that shared EU Membership brings to Northern Ireland,” he said.