Taoiseach and Cameron agree to co-operate closely on EU reform push


IRELAND AND Britain are to co-operate more closely to push for reforms of the European Union single market to boost growth and jobs, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and prime minister David Cameron have agreed.

Following talks in London, the two leaders signed off on a declaration to deepen and improve relations between the two countries over the next decade, promising greater prosperity if the gains possible are achieved.

The detailed reference to the areas of agreement on EU matters between the two countries may be noted in other EU capitals, with both men emphasising the common attitudes taken to the single market and the need for an “outward-looking” EU.

“I think the common view on EU policy is quite a new departure for the British and Irish governments,” said Mr Cameron, following an hour of talks in No 10 with Mr Kenny, who later launched the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

At a joint press conference, Mr Kenny said: “I gave the prime minister a view on the referendum to be held in respect of the fiscal compact, which Ireland supports very strongly and which we will ask our people to support in due course.”

The text of the declaration, said the Irish side, had been worked on for several months. Much of it is a recapitulation of existing work, particularly to promote co-operation on renewable energies, which could, said Mr Kenny, lead to “sales of energy from Ireland”.

“We intend that this joint statement will be the starting point for realising the potential over the next decade of even stronger relations for current and future generations living on these islands,“ said the two leaders.

Most significantly, perhaps, for the long term will be the closer ties to be developed between senior officials on both sides. The secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser and his Downing Street counterpart Jeremy Heywood are to lead the work.

Regular meeting between departmental secretaries general and their permanent secretary counterparts in Whitehall are to be held, along “with formal exchanges of civil servants”.

Responding to questions about the significance of yesterday’s declaration, the significance of which has not been emphasised by the British side to the same extent as in Dublin, the Taoiseach said: “What’s new is that we have never had one before. The declaration recognises that the relationship is at an unprecedented high level of co-operation.”

Mr Cameron viewed the declaration as the starting point. “All the friendship between our peoples, the shared culture and sport are flowering to their true and fullest extent. Enda and I are determined not to roll back on our heels on this, but actually to roll up our sleeves and make the relationship mean even more.

“What is most new about this is its existence,” he said, “Think of previous occasions with prime ministers and taoisigh would have stood in this room or in Dublin we would have been talking about political processes, parades, policing.

“Instead of that, there is another ‘p’ which is an entirely positive agenda between Ireland. It is about two countries which are friends and neighbours,” said Mr Cameron, who was unable later to attend a St Patrick Day’s reception in the House of Commons hosted by the Champ peace group.

*Meanwhile, Mr Kenny said all State agencies will do everything possible to help Irish exporters, big or small, keen on exporting to Britain.

He told the launch in London of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce that 50 per cent of all exports by indigenous Irish-owned firms go to Britain.

Speaking after the meeting with Mr Cameron, Mr Kenny said : “We see real potential there to grow jobs in indigenous industry.

“It has serious potential to grow and the British market is fundamental to that. It is a bit ironic, I suppose, that the economic downturn that has affected most countries in the world has brought us to a new realisation of what the potential (for growth in trade) actually is. The future is very bright in both ways.”

Highlighting the importance of the British market, Mr Kenny said Irish exports to Britain grew by €500 million last year, compared with just a €170 million rise in exports to Brazil, Russia, India and China, the world’s major emerging economies.

“While the BRICs are important for their potential in the years ahead, the trade between Ireland and Britain speaks for itself,” he told the reception which was hosted by Irish Ambassador Bobby McDonagh.