Noonan: No vote could force euro exit

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has suggested that Ireland may be forced to leave the eurozone if voters reject the EU fiscal compact treaty in the upcoming referendum.

In the latest poll carried out by Millward Brown Lansdowne on behalf of the Irish Independent, 37% of the 1,000 people questioned said they would vote yes in the May 31 referendum, 24% said they would vote no and 35% remained undecided. A further 4% said they would definitely not be voting.

Mr Noonan said a no vote would be a “dangerous leap” in the dark for Irish citizens. He said Ireland may need to enter “a new kind of an arrangement” rather than be a full member of the eurozone if there is a no vote.

His comments came as a group of eurosceptic MEPs visiting Ireland said voting for the treaty was “madness” and would eventually see Ireland throwing good money after bad money to meet debts.

But Mr Noonan told a Bloomberg conference in Dublin that he did not want Ireland to be a pavilion member of the eurozone “where you are allowed drink in the bar, but not play the course”.

He has previously argued that the vote is essentially about staying in the euro.

Mr Noonan yesterday said he had received assurances from European authorities that Ireland would still be assisted with financial aid if the crises in Greece develops further.

Ireland’s economy was unrelated to troubled member states, he added: “For big knock-on effects, you need to have very strong economic connections and we don’t have any economic connections really.”

Several anti-treaty MEPs visited Ireland yesterday and launched a pamphlet which will be delivered to homes. Members of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group are spending €200,000 on the leaflet drop and rejected suggestions they were interfering in Ireland’s internal politics.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage joined MEPs from Denmark and Finland in calling for a no vote at a press conference in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. MEPs say a yes vote here would lead to more fiscal unity in Europe and the eventual erosion of Ireland’s low corporation tax.

Mr Farage said: “Our chief argument is that this treaty represents an unacceptable loss of sovereignty to the extent where it begins to matter what government you have, certainly in terms of the ability to set a budget, because you have to change your constitution in line with the new German plans.”

He said it was “madness” for voters to sign up to something that may be changed in a number of weeks with unfolding events in Europe.

France is an advocate of tax harmonisation in Europe and its demands could see pressure for changes to Ireland’s 12% corporation tax rate.

An advisor to the new French president François Hollande yesterday told Newstalk that France could push for harmonised corporate tax rates across the eurozone.

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