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Irish ambassador to UK 'confident' of deal to avoid Brexit

Published 10/02/2016

Dan Mulhall said Ireland supports British efforts to improve competitiveness
Dan Mulhall said Ireland supports British efforts to improve competitiveness

The Irish Government's UK ambassador has said he is confident a deal will be done between Britain and the EU over Europe.

Proposals recently put forward in an effort to avoid a Brexit are "significant", Dan Mulhall added.

He said Ireland supports British efforts to improve competitiveness: promoting the single market; boosting the digital economy and tackling climate change.

He said: "I am confident, I am optimistic that a solution will be found that will enable the government to go to a referendum with a new set of proposals for the British public."

A summit of EU leaders on Brexit is due next week.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been meeting key European Union figures over a draft deal put forward by European Council president Donald Tusk aimed at keeping Britain in.

Mr Cameron has called for greater British sovereignty and restrictions on in-work benefits for EU migrants known as an "emergency brake".

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs has been holding an inquiry in to the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland.

Mr Mulhall told the committee the Irish Government supported Britain on welfare fraud reform but said the provisions were still being worked on.

He said Ireland had a similar proportion of its population born outside the state as Britain but there was not the same focus on resistance to migration or free movement.

The ambassador added that the renegotiation process reminded him of Ireland's experience after voters rejected the first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which reformed the EU, and the Republic had to seek further concessions.

He added: "If a country has a problem generally there is a willingness to find a solution to that problem.

"It seems to me that the EU again has shown that when it is confronted with a potential crisis it finds ways of arriving at solutions that at the beginning of the process will have looked to be impossible to achieve."

He said the key issue affected by Brexit would be trade, adding the trade in goods and services was worth 65 billion euros (£50 billion) last year and 400,000 jobs relied on it.

"It would be a key concern for us to preserve the advantages of our existing economic partnership with the UK, which has thrived and prospered within the EU and which outside the union would be the subject of question marks, I would say.

"I am not an alarmist, I don't go around talking about catastrophes but I look at things and try to weigh up consequences and I see risks on the trading front and that would be the primary concern."

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