Cable seeks to calm frayed nerves over possibility of UK exit
INTERVIEW:Vince Cable thinks it is ‘very unlikely’ that the United Kingdom will leave the EU
UK business secretary Vince Cable will today seek to soothe fears held by Irish business that the UK is getting ready to quit the European Union.
The senior Liberal Democrats figure will be in Dublin for a speech to the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, as well as meeting Irish ministers, including Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton.
Downplaying concerns, despite the speech of Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Cable told The Irish Times that it was “very, very unlikely that the UK will get to the stage of leaving the European Union.
“I think there is enough evidence on British public opinion and, particularly, British business opinion to reassure Ireland that there will be no nasty shocks, but it is clearly a source of uncertainty and worrying for that reason.”
He said he wanted in Dublin, “to explain to an Irish audience why Britain has got into this internal debate about our future in the EU, because it would obviously create problems for Ireland if Britain were to dissociate itself from the EU”.
Eurosceptic Conservative MPs were hoping to pull back powers from Brussels on social and employment laws, while the “more radical ones” wanted nothing more than free-trade ties with the EU.
“Well, if we did succeed in getting out of some of those social regulation things, that would be quite a good outcome from the UK’s point of view. But the problem is, is that realistic?
“What would other countries expect in return? I don’t know what Ireland thinks about social Europe, but it is very unpopular here among small businesses. If that could be done at no cost, that would be a good outcome from the UK’s point of view.
“But I don’t think it is going to happen because the other EU countries are not going unilaterally to let Britain opt out of the things that Britain feels uncomfortable with.
“The argument about that is not that it isn’t undesirable, but it is just not feasible.”
Mr Cable said he had “very volubly” made the case for the UK to be in the EU’s front row.
Seeking, perhaps, to avoid a damaging coalition split, Mr Cable said Mr Cameron was “genuinely trying to balance some very powerful forces within his own party, as well as in the country.
“I think he’s doing his best in a very difficult situation, but the danger is precisely the one that you put – that expectations are raised that we can renegotiate something in a very fundamental way that then doesn’t happen.
“And if you then have a referendum on the result, then what does he recommend? What does his party recommend and what does the public think?” Mr Cable asked.
“A lot of the criticisms the Tories make about Europe are well justified, but raising the possibility of walking away does create very serious uncertainty, particularly among investors and our trading partners.”
Foreign investors often are unacquainted with the details of the European Union.
“I meet very senior American, Asian businessmen who don’t actually know whether Britain is in or out of the euro zone,” Mr Cable added. “They have a vague sense that there is Europe and Britain is part of that. Once you start questioning that fundamental point, then lots of doubts do creep in with people.”
He was satisfied Mr Cameron wanted to remain in the EU. “What will happen to the Tory party I don’t know. There are all kinds of possibilities, they are under all kinds of strain.
“When this coalition was formed, it was my party that was under the cosh, but what’s happening now is we have stabilised and actually are quite unified. It is his party that is in a terrible dither, very fragmented, and we just don’t know what will happen to them.”