BRUSSELS — Ireland has called on Europe to do everything possible to keep Britain inside the European Union because Ireland’s economy depends on seamless business relations with Britain, its top trading partner.
Dominic Hannigan, chairman of the Irish Parliament’s all-party committee on European affairs, says a British exit from the 28-nation bloc would put Ireland at a profound economic disadvantage.
The Republic of Ireland, politically independent from the UK since 1922, joined the then-European Economic Community alongside Britain in 1973. The two nations share a land border because of Northern Ireland, a UK region. The EU contributes tens of millions annually to cross-border development projects.
“The British and Irish economies are largely intertwined,” Hannigan said Tuesday as he called on European nations to “do all in our power to ensure that the UK remains within the EU.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk says his proposal to address Britain’s demand for EU reforms is “balanced” for all but there are still issues to be solved ahead of the forthcoming EU summit.
Speaking after meeting Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Tuesday, Tusk said solutions have to be found for issues such as “the EU treaty change, emergency breaks on non-euro area countries, safe guard mechanism on access to benefits and finally the notion of the ever-closer (European) Union.”
He said the limit on benefits for workers is not meant to apply to workers from other states currently working in Britain.
British Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to secure a deal with the EU’s other 27 member nations at a summit Thursday and Friday for a looser union with the bloc. He then plans to hold a referendum in Britain on whether it should stay in the EU.
Sobotka, also speaking on behalf of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, said a compromise needs to be found on social benefits.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it makes no sense to talk about new quotas of migrants for European countries to take in when initial quotas agreed upon still haven’t been divided among the EU.
Merkel said Tuesday instead her focus at an upcoming EU summit will be efforts to work with Turkey on reducing the flow of migrants to Europe in general.
Merkel says “I’ll put all my energy into arguing this European-Turkish approach is the best way forward.”
She says European countries have not yet divided up 160,000 asylum seekers as had been previously agreed so that it made no sense to discuss new quotas.
European Union chief Donald Tusk is making clear that the bloc’s 28 leaders are heading into a summit this week that could fundamentally alter the political course of the continent.
Negotiations with Britain are still finely balanced over whether the EU can make the necessary reforms for Prime Minister David Cameron to support remaining an EU member in a national referendum on the issue.
At the same time, the migrant crisis is quickly turning into a seminal event, pitting east against west and many against Greece.
“The migratory crisis we are currently witnessing is testing our union to its limits,” Tusk said as he sought compromise on both issues ahead of Thursday’s summit.