Referendum on EU deal will be held if needed - Gilmore


Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said today the Government will hold a referendum on a proposed pact to enshrine penalties on European states that do not adhere to deficit rules, if needed.

The deal struck in Brussels last Friday, which involves 26 of the European Union’s 27 countries, is to be debated in the Dáil next week.

Mr Gilmore said it was too early at this stage to determine if it would require a referendum.

The Tá aiste said conclusive legal opinion on whether or not to put the deal to the electorate was needed after the full details of the agreement are pored over in the coming weeks. "The issue here isn't about whether we have a referendum or not, the first priority is that we take the steps that are necessary to secure the euro," Mr Gilmore said in an interview with RTÉ Radio. "If in certain circumstances that requires a referendum, then we'll we have a referendum."

But he added that the deal was an international agreement, which he stressed was different to an amendment to European treaties, which in the past have necessitated referendums.

He said it will not be clear if a referendum is actually needed until the text of the European agreement brokered in Brussels on Friday is finalised.

On the question of British prime minister David Cameron’s decision to veto the agreement, Mr Gilmore said it was not in Ireland's interest for its nearest neighbour to be isolated in the European Union. Mr Cameron opted out of the plan to forge ahead with a new European Union treaty with a tougher deficit and debt regime to avoid a repetition of the debt crisis in future, saying he had not got safeguards for Britain's financial services industry.

The Labour Party leader said he would be "surprised" if London is not involved in the discussions on the accord.

Earlier, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said fiscal coordination among European Union countries alone will not be enough to solve the sovereign debt crisis.

"What will probably happen is that events will overtake us," Mr Varadkar told RTÉ's Marian Finucane programme.

While fiscal coordination is a good idea, "it is not going to be enough to solve the problem we have", he said.

The European Central Bank must adopt a different role in the crisis, he added.

Mr Varadkar warned that increased power within intergovernmental institutions in the European Union is not in Ireland's interests.

"We are increasingly moving towards an intergovernmental union, which is particularly always what France wanted, and that is not in our interests as a country," he said. "We need to get the [European] commission back at the centre.

"What has emerged since Lisbon really hasn't worked out very well, where the commission has been downgraded if you like; the commission was there to represent Europe as a whole and all the member states," he said.

He said fiscal harmony throughout the union was desirable and Britain's decision to veto the new EU pact was disappointing.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said yesterday Britain’s decision to opt out of the new EU fiscal integration deal could have “serious consequences” for Ireland’s financial services industry.

EU leaders decided yesterday to create a new intergovernmental treaty after Mr said he would not back any change to the Lisbon Treaty without a concession for the City of London financial market.

The move isolated Mr Cameron in Europe. Only Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban backed him initially, but he changed his mind yesterday.

Mr McGrath said this would put Ireland’s financial services industry at a major disadvantage compared to London if the EU deal includes a new financial transactions tax.

“We could soon have a situation where the financial services industry in Ireland will be subject to a new transactions tax, but the City of London will be exempt,” he said. “Such a scenario could have serious ramifications for what is a critically important industry in Ireland.”

He said the Government cannot allow a situation where London becomes a more attractive base than Ireland because of a new tax, potentially putting the 33,000 jobs in the IFSC in Dublin at risk.

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny needs to urgently clarify if Ireland has committed to a new financial transactions tax and to state clearly what the implications of such a tax would be for Ireland given that the UK will be exempt.”