Britain will try and build an alliance of like-minded countries in an attempt to secure a series of reforms prior to its EU referendum, provisionally scheduled for 2017, said British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott.
“If the UK sets about seeking reforms on a unilateral basis in an ‘a la carte’ manner, it will be heroically difficult to pursue,” said Mr Chilcott. “The UK hopes to tap into a groundswell of support across the region where there is an appetite for reform. We have to find a way of socialising ideas.”
Mr Chilcott was speaking at an event organised by the employers’ group Ibec on the implications for Ireland arising from the UK’s EU referendum.
Mr Chilcott said that many of the reforms London was looking for in relation to the single market would not require EU treaty change. However, other reforms in the areas of voting and jurisdiction could necessitate treaty change, he added.
“I make this appeal to our friends: We want to make this a common endeavour,” he said. “It has to be a common endeavour with like-minded friends.”
Ibec president Danny McCoy said Britain’s referendum posed huge challenges for this country and for Irish businesses.
“The planned British referendum on EU membership has the potential to radically alter the political and economic relationship we currently enjoy with our nearest neighbour and our EU partners,” said Mr McCoy. “While the outcome is out of our hands, and the possible permutations hard to predict, we must ensure Irish interests are protected, whatever the result.
“How do we do this? By collaborating and competing. We need to work with the UK and like-minded partners in Europe to ensure that efforts to reform the EU are successful. At the same time, we need to compete aggressively to ensure that the UK does not steal a march to Ireland’s disadvantage.”
Mr McCoy said it was not possible to say at this stage how Ireland would be impacted if Britain exited the EU.
Would the EU create new laws and create new barriers to doing business with the UK, he asked. Or could the UK exit actually make Ireland a more attractive investment base and open up new opportunities for Ireland as an English-speaking business location, he added.
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