Ireland must not 'cling on to coat-tails of the UK'

Thu, Dec 15, 2011, 00:00

PARIS MEETING:MINISTER OF STATE for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has played down the impact on Ireland of Britain’s isolation in Europe, saying Dublin should not “revert to clinging on to the coat-tails of the UK” in foreign affairs.

Amid reports of concern in Dublin that Irish interests could be damaged by London remaining outside the fiscal union, Ms Creighton said Ireland and Britain had been “on a different path” in Europe for some time and that the potential impact was being overstated.

“There’s an important impact on the union, because it’s not good news for us to have 26 operating in an intergovernmental treaty outside of the existing treaties. I have big concerns about that as a point of principle,” she said during a visit to Paris yesterday.

“But I think there’s an overstatement of the potential damage inflicted on Ireland by the UK’s decision last week,” she said, adding that decisions on the single market and the European Commission’s proposals on a common corporate tax base would continue to be taken by all 27 EU states.

While Britain was a vital trading partner and an important ally, the two countries “couldn’t be further apart in terms of our attitude and our approach to Europe”. Adopting the euro without Britain had shown Ireland could successfully pursue an economic agenda independently of its neighbour.

“We do not want to somehow revert to clinging on to the coat-tails of the United Kingdom in terms of how we deal with international and European affairs. That would be a regressive step which would be hugely damaging to our economy and to our national interest,” she said.

Following a meeting with her French counterpart, Jean Leonetti, Ms Creighton said there was not the same “single-minded focus” in Paris on Ireland’s corporate tax regime as there had been earlier this year.

She predicted the topic would be raised for a domestic audience by the French left and right in the build-up to presidential and parliamentary elections next year. “We have to be confident in the knowledge that we have many allies within the European Union, and within the euro zone, who feel the same way as us – some of them even more strongly than us,” she added.

Ms Creighton said she stressed to Mr Leonetti that Ireland was anxious that the final “fiscal compact” text should stick closely to what was agreed by EU leaders in Brussels last week rather than including “a broad range of aspirations”.

On Ireland’s efforts to secure some relief on its heavy bank debt, in the form of lower interest rates or longer repayment schedules, Ms Creighton said Irish and European officials would try to draft a range of options over the coming weeks. Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s case had been “warmly received” and she was “very optimistic of a significant outcome”.