Asked if any aid given to Ireland by the UK would be bilateral rather than going through the community constitutions, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Chancellor had spoken about this, this morning.
The Chancellor had said that the mechanism agreed in May was an interim arrangement and was not meant to be permanent. There were discussions ongoing in the European Council about what the permanent mechanism arrangements would entail. The PMS said that we had set out how we thought this mechanism should operate.
On Ireland, the PMS said that there were a number of potential sources of funding, including bilateral loans, loans routed through the European mechanisms and there were IMF loans. That package was now being discussed and our approach in those discussions would be to act in Britain’s national interest, and that was the only measure by which we would judge the proposals.
Put that if funding through the community fund was not being ruled out, then funding could in fact be double the £7bn currently being talked about, the PMS said that the numbers had not been fixed yet. We had commitments through certain mechanisms, including the IMF, and it was in our interest that there was a package put in place that supported the Irish economy.
Asked if the Government was excluding the possibility of some money going through the European Community Fund, the PMS advised people to wait to see the outcome of the discussions.
Put that there had been reports that the figure would be in the ‘low billions’ and did the PMS recognise that, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had said ‘billions, not tens of billions.’
Asked how the Prime Minister would explain to the British public why the Government was about to bail out Ireland in a time of austerity, the PMS said that it was in our national interest to be involved in this arrangement. There were very close links between our economy and the Irish economy and close links between UK banks and Irish banks as well as between the economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Asked what the Government’s position was on how the European Mechanism should operate, the PMS replied that we had had discussions on this at the last European Council. The permanent mechanism for the Eurozone should be for Eurozone countries.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been in contact with his counterpart in Ireland, the PMS said this was primarily being dealt with by Finance Ministries. The PMS said that the Prime Minister may have had meetings in the margins of the NATO Summit on this issue.
On whether Ireland had been asked to increase its level of corporation tax as part of any package, the PMS replied that we needed to see a package that did the job it was supposed to do, which was to support a stable Irish economy.
In response to suggestions that the UK had agreed with France and Germany that Ireland would need to put up the level of corporation tax as part of any rescue package, the PMS said that discussions were still ongoing and we would not be providing commentary on them until they were completed.
On whether there had to be a vote in Parliament on a bilateral loan to Ireland, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had said earlier this morning that we were looking at that option, but people should speak to the Treasury for any further detail.
Asked if it was the Government’s position that as a point of principle the Eurozone must not be allowed to fail under any circumstances, the PMS referred people to what the Chancellor had said this morning; seeing a successful and stable Eurozone was in our economic interest.
Asked if a loan from the Government to Ireland would be easier to sell to the British public if Ireland was forced to raise the level of corporation tax, the PMS said he would not get into speculating about different conditions that may or may not apply.
On when the talks were likely to conclude, the PMS said that he would not want to speculate on that point.
Asked if the Government would do a similar deal to help Portugal, the PMS said that both the Prime Minister and Chancellor had made the point that we had particularly close economic links with Ireland, so what happened in Ireland had a real impact on what happened in the UK.
Asked if a loan would increase the deficit, the PMS advised people to speak to the Treasury about classification.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on backbench calls to repatriate some of Brussels’ powers during this period, the PMS said that there was a specific issue that we needed to deal with at the present time and it was in our national interest to support Ireland.
Asked why the Government appeared to be having second thoughts on the disclosure of bank bonuses, the PMS said that this referred to an article by David Walker, who had said that other countries were not moving in the same direction as the UK and we should think about whether or not we could promote it internationally. So this was a statement by David Walker and not the Government.
Put that the Chancellor had confirmed this earlier today, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had said that Mr Walker had made some comments and ‘it might be better for Britain to promote this internationally rather than unilaterally.’
Asked if bankers who got more than £1m in bonuses would need to disclose them, the PMS said that the Government would bring forward proposals. This was also set out in the Coalition Agreement.
Asked if the Government had any concerns over when the Royal Wedding took place, the PMS said that this was a matter for the Royal Family. Asked if there were any concerns over holding it on May 5th, the PMS said that the timing of the wedding was a matter for the Royal Family.
The PMS said that he would not want to comment on the Palace’s internal processes, but he had no doubt that they would be taking advice on different days. The timing of the wedding was for them to discuss.
Asked if there had been any discussions between No10 and the Palace, the PMS said that he did not know if there had been any conversations, but it was their decision.
Asked if he would confirm that the Prime Minister would not be holidaying in Thailand over Christmas, the PMS said he would not be confirming anything, as we did not get into discussions about the Prime Minister’s holiday arrangements.