UK should stay in EU, says Gilmore

Wed, Jan 23, 2013, 00:00

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said it is greatly in Britain’s interest and that of the entire EU for the country to remain in the union.

On the eve of British prime minister David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on Europe, Mr Gilmore told a committee of MEPs in Brussels that it would be “better for all of us” for Britain to stay in the EU.

“Ireland spent so long being told by the British what to do . . . that I’m reluctant to start to reverse the table,” he told the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.

He went on to say, however, that the Republic and UK had walked many of the same paths in 40 years of EU membership.

“We’re very close neighbours. We are now very good friends. We share a shared responsibility for the peace process in Northern Ireland and I have said publicly and I repeat here: Ireland wants to see the United Kingdom as a fully engaged committed member of the EU.”

Trade benefits

Responding to questions from Conservative MEPs Charles Tannock and Sir Robert Atkins about the trade advantages of membership, Mr Gilmore argued the benefits were clear.

“If we could conclude trade agreements with the US, with Canada, with Japan, with the other strategic partners, we’re talking about adding about 2 per cent to the GDP of the EU. There’s a big prize at stake here.

“Yes, we are better collectively to negotiate those trade agreements as 27 member states and as 27 countries together representing a total population of 500 million people with the biggest concentration of purchasing power on the globe, and we are far better doing that as a collective, as an EU, than any of us – big country or small country – is capable of doing it on their own.”

Mr Gilmore’s remarks came as a succession of Irish Ministers set out their agenda for Ireland’s EU presidency in the second of four days of hearings before the parliament.

Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton told a committee that a referendum might be required for Ireland to take part in the unitary European patent. Participation would necessitate a transfer of legal competence on patent matters to a new European court, moving responsibility away from the Irish courts.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he wished to finalise measures for a mutual recognition of protection orders.

New insolvency rules

Mr Shatter also told the legal affairs committee that a key objective with new insolvency rules should be to deter “abusive forum shopping” in cross-border insolvencies in which people who cannot repay their debts seek to settle their case in the most lenient jurisdictions.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said he aimed to advance a sweeping reform of the common fisheries policy. “What we do not want in my personal view is that we turn the common fisheries policy purely into an enforcement policy.”