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Ireland keen to keep UK in single market regardless of EU referendum vote

By Colm Kelpie

Ireland will back keeping Britain in the single market even if it votes to leave the EU next week, the Republic’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said in Luxembourg yesterday.

Opening the door to a post-Brexit free trade agreement just days away from the knife-edge vote means Mr Noonan runs the risk of making Prime Minister David Cameron’s effort to shore up faltering support for the Remain camp even harder.

Mr Noonan played down earlier tough comments from Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who previously said the UK would be locked out of the common trade area if people voted for a Brexit.

With less than a week to go until the crucial referendum, Mr Noonan said Ireland was “unashamedly” of the view that Britain must remain part of the EU.

He also predicted that voters would ultimately choose to remain in the bloc despite opinion polls suggesting momentum for the Leave camp.

But maintaining trade with Britain was vital to Ireland regardless of the result, he added.

Germany’s Mr Schauble previously warned that a vote to leave would mean that Britain would not be able to continue to benefit from the single market in the same way that Norway and Switzerland currently do.

“What Mr Schauble says is legally and technically correct, but I don’t think it is the end position,” Mr Noonan said ahead of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg.

He added that Ireland would be in favour of allowing the UK single market access because of the important trade relationship between the two countries.

He explained that Ireland would also want to ensure a common travel area remains, but he warned there were no guarantees. “There’s a two-year period to make any alternative arrangements, but the fact that they leave means they leave,” he said.

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