Varadkar willing to pay more to EU, but is against common tax rate

Taoiseach also tells those who question Belfast Agreement to ‘respect our vote’

Speaking at an informal gathering of EU government leaders in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on "radical Brexiteers" to respect the Good Friday Agreement. Video: EU Council

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland is willing to pay more into the EU budget after Brexit, but rejected the idea that revenues from corporation tax in EU countries could be used to fill the gap left by the UK’s departure.

EU leaders discussed the next seven-year budget for the union, which begins in 2021, at a summit meeting in Brussels on Friday. The UK’s departure will leave a gap estimated at between €10 billion and €15 billion a year.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland’s position was that “we should protect and reform programmes that work well, like the Common Agricultural Policy, like cohesion and structural funds and that, if Europe is going to do new things – and we should do new things particularly around migration and security and other matters – that we should try to find new sources of money for that.”

Opposition

However, the Taoiseach also reiterated Ireland’s opposition to an EU proposal for a common corporation tax base throughout the EU, though he indicated that Ireland may be willing to increase its annual contribution to the EU budget.

“Our position on the (common consolidated corporate tax base) plan is that we don’t favour it. We believe that tax sovereignty is important, that national governments should set their own taxes and that money should be determined by national parliaments and spent on national budgets,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The Irish Government is willing to contemplate an increase in our contributions over the next five years provided of course that other countries do likewise and provided that we protect well-functioning programmes, like the CAP, like Erasmus, like Horizon 2020.”

Asked if Ireland could be forced to weaken its position on the corporation tax proposal in return for support on Brexit, Mr Varadkar said: “No. Nobody’s tried that yet anyway. I don’t think they will either.”

Mr Varadkar also told “radical Brexiteers” who have questioned the future of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement to “respect the vote” of people in the North and the Republic.

Summit

Speaking on his way into a summit of European leaders in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said: “I suppose what I would say to them is what they always say to us: that we should respect their vote.

“The 52:48 vote to leave the EU – we do respect that vote. I would say to anyone who questions the Good Friday Agreement: respect our vote. Ninety-four per cent for the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, and 71 per cent in Northern Ireland. ”

Some pro-Brexit MPs, including influential Brexiteers Daniel Hannan and Kate Hoey, have been criticising the Belfast Agreement in recent days, seeing it as a barrier to a hard Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said he was “reassured” by statements from British prime minister Theresa May and the Northern Secretary Karen Bradley reiterating their commitment to the agreement in recent days.

“They’ve said that they stand by the Good Friday Agreement and their support for it is steadfast,” he said.

“You know, when I want to know what the United Kingdom government thinks, when there are a lot of mixed messages, I listen to the prime minister.”