Britain says ready to help Ireland deal with bank crisis
Britain stands ready to participate in any eurozone and IMF efforts to rescue Ireland's beleaguered banking sector, British finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday.
European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn also said a potential British role in a bailout was "under discussion," hours after the European Commission and the IMF announced the launch of an urgent mission to Dublin.
Osborne told reporters ahead of a meeting of European Union finance ministers that London, which is not part of the eurozone but is a member of the wider EU, would do "what is in Britain's national interest."
"Ireland is our closest neighbour. And it's in Britain's national interest that the Irish economy is successful and we have a stable banking system," he said.
"So Britain stands ready to support Ireland," Osborne said.
Rehn said it was "natural" for Britain to be involved in the discussions since British banks have "very significant exposure in Ireland" and "very strong interconnections in the banking sector."
Eurozone finance ministers announced late Tuesday that they would act in a "determined and coordinated" manner to ensure the stability of the single currency area, under threat again six months after a huge bailout of Greece.
Experts from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will step up talks with Irish authorities in the coming days to prepare a bank aid programme.
"The situation is very pressing and very, very serious and we don't have any time to waste," Rehn said.
"It is essential that confidence in the Irish banking sector is restored for the sake of financial stability over Europe and for the sake of restoring confidence in real economy."
The head of eurozone finance ministers, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said the Irish government would decide in the coming days whether to accept a bailout for its banks.
© 2010 AFP