Bruton blames UK over referendum


BRITISH OPPOSITION to the EU’s original fiscal treaty proposal is partly responsible for forcing a referendum on the issue in the Republic, former taoiseach John Bruton argued yesterday.

The Republic has to hold a constitutional referendum to ratify the fiscal treaty, which imposes budgetary rules on EU members limiting the amount of money they can borrow and the deficits they can run.

Addressing the Ireland Canada Business Association yesterday, John Bruton, a former taoiseach and EU ambassador to the US, said the British government’s refusal to agree to amend existing European treaties to accommodate the new fiscal rules had “forced everybody else” to go outside existing agreements.

“The fact that a member state would do such a thing, to my mind, suggests something not far from malice,” he added.

Mr Bruton argued that if Britain had agreed to amend the existing EU treaties to accommodate the fiscal pact, it is possible the Republic could have avoided the need for a referendum. He suggested it would have been possible for the Government to rely on the fact the electorate have already ratified those existing treaties in previous referendums.

Mr Bruton is president of IFSC Ireland, a private organisation that promotes the Republic, and particularly Dublin, as a location for international financial services. His brother, Richard, is Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation in the Coalition.

Mr Bruton was giving the Ireland Canada Business Association’s inaugural lecture, which was hosted by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers at its offices in Dublin. In his speech, he argued the welfare state, designed during a period of sustained growth in the 1950s and 1960s and promising generous pensions to workers, was the root cause of the EU’s sovereign debt crisis.

He said the markets recognised in many EU states the ratio of workers to pensioners was falling, making it harder to sustain retirement benefits. As a result, the markets were targeting the EU.