The Taoiseach has said that no Irish workers in Britain will be affected by the UK’s EU reform bid.
British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday secured concessions from Brussels that he said gave his country a “special status” in Europe.
“I do not love Brussels, I love Britain,” Mr Cameron said after a two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels, adding the deal hammered out over the two days of meetings gave Britain “the best of both worlds”.
He needed the concessions to help him win a referendum on EU membership that he intends to hold by the end of June.
One of his key demands was to limit tax credits for non-British EU workers for four years, a provision which the Taoiseach says will not apply to Irish workers because of our special relationship with the UK.
Ireland and the UK have had a common travel area in place since the 1920s, with shared visa agreements and border controls. The relationship was recognised in EU law in 1997.
Enda Kenny said that Ireland would also be looking at introducing another British ask: limiting child benefit payments for non-resident children of EU workers.
The measure can only be applied once EU legislation is amended, which will need the approval of the European Parliament and would only immediately apply to new claimants. It would apply to existing child benefit claimants as of 2020.
Mr Kenny met privately with Mr Cameron last night to plead Ireland’s case, which had riled Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, whose citizens would be most affected by the welfare curbs and were keen to limit them to the UK.
But Mr Kenny said he had spoken to Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo last night and that she was “happy with the text”.
Mr Kenny missed out on a second day’s electioneering yesterday to help seal a deal at the EU summit.
“It is very much in Ireland’s interest that Britain would remain a central part of the European Union,” Mr Kenny told reporters after the meeting, which had foundered on Thursday night over Mr Cameron’s demands on welfare.
Mr Cameron also won a brake on eurozone financial decisions affecting the City of London, despite vociferous opposition from France.
And he secured pledges on sovereignty, including a red card that a group of national parliaments can pull to halt unwanted EU laws, and a UK-specific opt-out of the principle of “ever closer union”.
The measures will be written into an EU treaty some time in the future.
Mr Cameron now begins a months-long referendum campaign to keep Britain in the EU, which he said he would be fighting to win. “Turning our back on the EU is no solution at all,” he said.
“This is a time to stick together, a time for strength in numbers,” he said.
Mr Cameron added that he will campaign with his “heart and soul” to stay in the union.
Mr Kenny said it was his “constitutional duty” to stay in Brussels yesterday, even though it meant he missed a second day of canvassing for next week’s General Election.