Ireland hopes Britain will stay in EU
Ireland hopes Britain will not turn its back on the European Union but it must abide by the same conditions as other member states, Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to give a major speech this month about Britain's strained relationship with the EU but has already said he wants to renegotiate the conditions of its membership with the 27-country bloc.
Gilmore, who is also Ireland's foreign minister, said: "We have a very strong interest in Britain not just remaining (in the EU) but Britain to be very much at the heart of the EU and fully engaged in the EU."
Speaking to a group of foreign reporters visiting Dublin for the start of Ireland's six-month presidency of the EU, Gilmore said "as far as we can influence, we'll defend UK membership".
EU President Herman Van Rompuy -- who will visit Dublin on Wednesday -- has warned Britain it cannot "cherry-pick" which powers it takes back from Brussels.
Gilmore stressed that "conditions for membership must be the same for all members".
"It's not going to work if we have 26 to 27 kinds of membership," he said.
Ireland and Britain were currently enjoying better relations "than at any time in history" and it is Ireland's main trading partner, he added.
Gilmore predicted that the economic importance of the EU for the British economy would play a growing role in the debate about Britain's future role.
"The debate... will move to a deeper level. The economic importance of the EU for the British economy and mutual dependence will become a stronger element," he said.
© 2013 AFP