Minister says EU referendum 'good news for Ireland'
Five years of doubt about the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union will help Ireland’s fight for foreign investors, the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, has warned.
The EU referendum speech yesterday of British prime minister David Cameron had created “uncertainty for business”, said Mr Jones. He arrives in Dublin today for a speech tomorrow to the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce.
“It is good news for Ireland, because Ireland will be seen as a place to invest in because it is part of the EU and so has the access. That’s right to say,” the first minister told The Irish Times.
However, the UK’s departure from the EU – if that were to happen after a referendum in 2017-18 – would create “unknown problems” for the Republic, given the Border with Northern Ireland.
The best of all scenarios for Ireland, he agreed, would be for Ireland to win the short-term battle with the UK for foreign direct investors, but for the UK then to stay in after all. “Yes, I think so.”
Delaying the referendum for five years made the situation even worse, he added. “It also has an effect on the Scottish referendum. Alex Salmond must think that his birthday has come.
“The [Scottish independence] referendum next year will be defined, not on Scottish independence but on Scotland’s membership of the EU, which for those of us who would want Scotland to remain in the union is bad news.”
Mr Cameron, he said, had made “an unnecessary speech” about future EU ties: “Five years of emming and aaahhing about a referendum is bound to create uncertainty.”
It was “bound to lead to a situation where potential investors will not come to Wales, nor to the UK but that they will go to countries whose membership of the EU and its large market is not in doubt.”
Mr Jones said the Cameron speech had been driven by “the internal politics of the Conservative Party and nothing to do with Britain’s best interests”.
He is to meet President Michael D Higgins later today.
“There is a large wing in the Conservative Party that is a narrow-minded, nationalist wing, who are driven by hatred of Europe and, it seems to me, little else.
“There seems to be an assumption that the EU will bend over backwards to keep the UK in. I don’t think it will; the UK has gone out of its way in the past few years to divest itself of the friends it had.
“There are other countries that are less integrationist, a number of them, but the UK has not built bridges with those countries to provide an alternative view of the EU,” the first minister added.