Strength of Brexit deal ‘a surprise’ for eurosceptics, says Chilcott

British ambassador hails landmark proposals to keep UK within EU

 Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland .Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland .Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

The strength of Britain’s draft agreement on EU membership has surprised many eurosceptics, according to Britain’s ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott.

The proposals unveiled yesterday by European Council president Donald Tusk addressed “everything in Conservative Party manifesto”, he said, and formed “the basis” for a workable deal.

The draft agreement, which comes ahead of Britain’s in-out referendum on Europe, offers the UK an “emergency brake” on migrant welfare, protections for non-euro zone states and a legally-binding assurance that the UK is not expected to pursue “ever-closer” ties with Europe.

“If you look at what was in the Conservative Party manifesto and you look at the papers produced by Donald Tusk yesterday, everything that was in the manifesto is addressed in those papers,” Mr Chilcott told The Irish Times.

“It’s not all precisely as in the manifesto but the objectives of the different areas can be satisfactorily addressed through the Tusk document, subject to a little further negotiation on the details particularly on the way the ‘emergency brake’ on migration is going to operate,” he said.

“But it’s there. There’s no doubt about it. The basis of a deal which meets the manifesto position is now available to us and it’s been done despite lots of people saying this is impossible and would never be arrived at.”

Mr Chilcott said the EU did not have the same “existential importance” to Britain as it did for other member states for various political and historical reasons.

“The EU didn’t modernise us. It doesn’t guarantee our democracy if anything it slightly dilutes it,” he said.

He also noted the upcoming referendum on British membership was being held against a backdrop of unprecedented levels of migration, which, he said, was the single-biggest factor affecting public attitudes.

Mr Chilcott was speaking at the launch of the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, which found 75 per cent of respondents believe Britain leaving the EU could negatively impact Ireland.

More generally, the survey found trust in the Irish Government had risen 10 percentage points, with a slim majority now expressing confidence that they would be better off in the next five year.

However, against a backdrop of growing inequality, the research identified a growing trust gap between an “informed” global elite and the rest of the population.

Respondents in higher income brackets, who regularly consume media, follow public policy issues and have a university degree had greater trust in public institutions compared with the people who did not fall within this description.

The survey also ranked the top five issues for voters in the upcoming election here, with the economy ranked as number one.

Perhaps surprisingly, the issue of water charges ranked higher than tax reductions.