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Address by An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD to the Confederation of British Industry Annual Conference 9 November Grosvenor House Hotel, London "Securing our global future in a changing world"

 

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Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to be with you today, as the CBI celebrates 50 years of championing British business, and as you look ahead to Britain’s economic future in a changing world.
Ireland’s economy
I am here at a time when the Irish economy is recovering. We are restoring the public finances, rebuilding our broken banking system and creating the environment to grow jobs. We are now budgeting for growth.
Ireland was the fastest-growing economy in the EU last year. The European Commission forecasts the same again this year.
We had GDP growth of 5.2% in 2014 - our strongest annual growth since 2007.
Export growth at 12.1% was the strongest since 2001.
We will reduce the government budget deficit from a peak of 12.5% of GDP in 2011 to an expected 1.2% next year.
Our target is to eliminate it altogether in 2018 and deliver a balanced budget.
Unemployment was at a six-year low of 9.3% in October, down from a high of over 15% in 2012.
Our recovery plan involved decisions that have been very painful for people in our country.
But the people of Ireland displayed great patience and resilience during the crisis.
It is because of their sacrifices and hard work that our country is now recovering.
We continue to focus on avoiding the mistakes of the past. There can be no return to boom and bust.
This can only be achieved by a Government that makes the right choices. One that ensures that the hard won recovery is in sustainable sectors and is balanced, both regionally and socially.
Ireland/UK economic ties
Ireland’s recovery is good news for Britain: Ireland and the UK share a mutually beneficial trading partnership.
About €1 billion worth of goods and services are traded between our two countries every week.
This is not one-way traffic. The UK exports more to Ireland than it does to China, India and Brazil combined.
In fact, we are the UK’s 5th largest market. More than £14 billion pounds worth of British goods and services were exported to Ireland in 2012.
We buy more British food and non-alcoholic drinks than any other country – over £3 billion pounds annually.
This level of trade translates into good jobs. It is estimated that over 200,000 UK jobs are predicated on exports to Ireland.
We also invest in each other more than you might think.
There are almost 100 UK companies based in Ireland that are backed by our Inward Investment Agency, the IDA. These employ almost 7,000 people.
The UK is the 3rd largest investor in Ireland, after the USA and Germany.
Our people move more easily and frequently across national boundaries.
Our respective labour markets have always been closely integrated. The profile of Irish workers in Britain has changed over the years reflecting the new economy and our tech-savvy, professionalised workforce. There are an estimated 45,000 Irish Directors of UK companies.
Great Britain is now the largest single market for tourism to the island of Ireland, delivering almost 50% of all overseas visitors and around one-third of all overseas tourism revenue.
The Dublin – London air route is the second busiest international corridor in the world with 3.6 million passengers travelling between the capital cities in 2013.
Strategic risks
Given the breadth and depth of these overlapping interests, it is perhaps not surprising that Ireland regards the prospect of the UK leaving the EU as a major strategic risk.
In truth, the full risks are unknown as much would depend on the detail of what a “Brexit” process would actually look like.
However, it is an outcome that the Irish Government does not wish to see materialise at all.
Ireland’s commitment to the European Union is unqualified.
Clearly, the choice of whether to remain in the European Union, or to leave it, is for the British people alone to make.
I fully accept and understand that the decision will not be made on the basis of its economic impact on other jurisdictions.
But I think it is right - as your friend, closest neighbour and the only EU partner with whom Britain shares a land border - to share our perspective with you.
The Irish Government’s strong view, backed up by independent economic research published last week, is that a Brexit is not in Ireland’s economic interest.
The research showed adverse impacts across a range of headings including Trade, Energy and the Labour Market. It also debunked the myth that there would be some FDI bonanza for Ireland if Britain left the Union.
Northern Ireland
The research also found that Northern Ireland could be the most adversely affected region of the UK in the event of a Brexit. This is extremely worrying on a number of levels.
The EU has been an important, perhaps underestimated, enabler of peace in Northern Ireland. It was instrumental in facilitating constructive contact and building trust between our Governments to find a political settlement. All- island economic cooperation is so much easier between two members of the European Union.
The EU provided almost €2.4 billion euro in funding over the period 2007 to 2013 to help Northern Ireland overcome the challenges of a peripheral region that has emerged from conflict. Common membership of the EU project is part of the glue holding that transition process together.
We have come through a difficult few months politically in Northern Ireland. But I remain optimistic.
I believe that Northern Ireland can leave the past behind and become a dynamic economy that will benefit not only the UK but the island of Ireland.
In Cambridge last September, I set out my vision for an island which is defined by optimism, hope and opportunity.
At the heart of that vision are efficient, effective and representative devolved institutions working for the common good on a sustainable basis.
There must also be cooperation to build the island economy through overseas investment, trade, tourism, and utilising a competitive, common corporation tax rate.
Now is not the time to weaken the cohesive, stabilising influence and outward focus that shared EU Membership brings to Northern Ireland.
Working with Britain in the EU
So I have no doubt that continued British membership of the European Union is good for Ireland and for relationships on these islands.

Moreover, I believe that continued British membership of the EU is in Britain’s own best interests. But that is for the British people to decide.

The case for that position is being made effectively here by groups and individuals directly involved in the issues as they affect Britain.

The stakes are too high for the voice of business not to be heard in this debate.

The CBI’s own report, ‘Choosing Our Future’ comprehensively analyses the benefits of EU membership and identifies areas which need to be reformed.

CBI’s analysis is similar to that of IBEC, your Irish counterpart. IBEC is also strongly positive – but not uncritical - about EU membership. They have in the past played an active part in referendum debates in Ireland on EU Treaty changes.

I know CBI and IBEC have a strong tradition of working together through the Joint Business Council going back many years. Indeed, I shared a platform in Belfast with your esteemed outgoing Director General, John Cridland at a conference on the All Island Economy earlier this year. I hope that this ongoing collaboration will be useful in the months ahead.

Let me be clear, however. I am not here today to say that the EU is perfect.

Like David Cameron, I have been attending European Councils for several years now. I have seen the European Union up close.

I still find an enduring power in the idea that by working together we are stronger.

And the bottom line is still this: for over sixty years, the EU has contributed hugely to the healing of a broken and divided continent.

But I have also seen how the Union could do better. I know that it has been subjected to unprecedented challenges in recent times. I share the view that we need to look critically at what we do at EU level and how we do it, to ensure the best deal for all our citizens.

It is in all of our interests to make the Union function more effectively.

It is already moving in that direction. Last year, the European Council agreed a Strategic Agenda which focuses on growth, competitiveness and jobs.

The Council agreed that the Union needs to concentrate on issues where it can make a real difference, leaving Member States to do what they can do better. However, delivering on what has been agreed must now be the focus.

Similarly, the Commission has drastically reduced the number of legislative proposals. It is subjecting existing regulation to more intense scrutiny and scrapping or amending wherever appropriate.

I believe therefore that the Union and its institutions are now listening, and that we are pointing in the right direction.

Ireland and the EU
Ireland’s economic policy priorities within the EU are strikingly similar to those of the UK, and of other outward-looking, open and liberal partners.
There are of course some important differences, including our strong support for a modern, efficient and suitably-funded Common Agricultural Policy. Our adoption and unquestioned commitment to the euro as our currency is another.
However, like the UK, we are focussed on strengthening and completing the Single Market; on building a real Digital Single Market; and on expanding the Union’s network of trade relationships across the globe.
I believe the Single Market provides a critically important framework for the free flow of goods, services and capital. Next year’s 30th anniversary will mark an enormous achievement. However there is more work to be done, especially with regard to services.
The CBI has rightly highlighted the Digital Single Market in its analysis. If we get it right, this will become a key driver of stronger economic growth across Europe.

In advance of the June European Council, I proposed to Prime Minister Cameron and other leaders that we send a joint letter to Presidents Tusk and Juncker. It highlighted the need for investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. Eight countries co-signed the letter and others have since indicated their support for it.
The Union provides a vehicle to amplify our individual voices, including through the negotiation of trade and investment deals with major global partners.
Quite simply, we can do much more collectively in this area, given the overall scale of the European economy, than on our own.
The progress of the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US is of critical importance.
Ireland and the UK are particularly well-positioned to make gains from this Agreement.
Looking at these three areas of policy – Single Market, Digital Single Market and Trade Agreements – it is clear that ongoing cooperation between the UK and Ireland will be important.
We, and indeed other partners, want to continue working with the UK – a UK which is committed to staying and fighting its corner.
EU Reform Agenda
We look forward to hearing very shortly more about the British reform agenda.
The Prime Minister’s personal engagement with his opposite numbers has been very well received. And there is a lot of goodwill to assist him in making the case for Britain in the EU.
I have always been clear that Ireland will be open and pragmatic when it comes to sensible proposals to improve the EU.
In general, where the UK seeks reasonable and achievable adjustments, we will be sympathetic and supportive.
It is clear that on the competitiveness agenda we have a very great deal in common.
I know that the CBI is interested in the relationship between the majority of Member States which are in the Euro area and the minority which are not.
Of course, the Euro area must have the capacity to do what is necessary to ensure financial stability and economic growth. It must act for the Single Market but also with full respect for the integrity of the Union as a whole, without prejudice to the interests of any Member State.
We appreciate the concerns of the UK – and other non-Euro countries - in this area and will look carefully and constructively at whatever is proposed.
In advance of detailed proposals it is difficult to be definitive on the other questions which have been raised.
However, I believe that it should be possible, although sometimes not easy, to reach agreed and reasonable outcomes across the board.
Looking ahead
Relations on these islands have never been better. They have transformed over recent years almost beyond recognition.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II’s State visit was warmly received in Ireland as a historically significant moment of reconciliation. Our President, Michael D. Higgins’ State visit to Great Britain last year underscored the maturity of relations between our countries.
The Prime Minister and I remain committed to deepening relations between our two Governments. In March 2012, we signed a Joint Statement which set out a vision of what closer cooperation would look like over the next ten years.
It also mapped out a structured process of engagement and policy outcomes.
As we acknowledge our shared past, so too must we look to a shared future, the precise shape of which, at this point in time, is somewhat unclear.
What is clear is that we are closer than ever and working better together for all the people of these islands.
I believe that we need to continue that work – our two countries together - in the European Union.

Thank you.