I understand that the figure of 45,000 jobs mentioned by the Deputy refers to the numbers employed in the sectors of Irish manufacturing industry with the highest dependence on the UK market. I deny the Deputy's suggestion that such firms could be devastated if the UK stayed out of stage 3 of Economic and Monetary Union and Ireland joined. The future prospects of these firms will, of course, depend on a much wider range of factors. These include, in addition to the UK decision on Economic and Monetary Union, the overall strength of the Irish economy including, in particular, our competitive position relative to the UK when stage 3 of Economic and Monetary Union comes into being, the level of interest rates here as compared with the UK, the performance of sterling in the meantime, the extent of diversification of these firms to other markets and the arrangements to be put in place at EU level to regulate the relationship between the single currency and the currencies of member states not participating in the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union.
I would also point out that the UK Government has never said it will not participate in Economic and Monetary Union. Rather it has indicated that the UK will not join Economic and Monetary Union in 1997, but that if European Monetary Union commences at a later date, a decision on UK participation will be made closer to that time; 1 January 1999 is now the agreed commencement date for Economic and Monetary Union and the 1997 date has been abandoned. Ireland's position will not be advanced at this point by engaging in speculation about what the UK may decide when the time comes.
As the Minister for Finance, I am determined to ensure that Ireland will be fit and ready to join Economic and Monetary Union when it is formed in 1999 and that our economy performs well when we are in Economic and Monetary Union. We must, therefore, continue to meet the convergence criteria set down in the Maastricht Treaty. We must also improve our competitiveness, flexibility and efficiency at every level to ensure that we can continue to grow and maximise sustainable employment both before European Monetary Union is formed and when we are members of it.
I should also inform the Deputy that I have announced I am commissioning, on behalf of the Government, an in-depth study by consultants of the likely economic implications of Economic and Monetary Union. The study will assist us to deepen our understanding of how the Irish economy interfaces with its trading partners. By having more detailed information, we will be better prepared to plan our national policies with a view to Economic and Monetary Union — both in preparation for it and to participate successfully within it. The study will have particular reference to employment and will extend to sectoral level. It will cover both direct and indirect economic effects and address both short and longer term impacts. The study will be completed by the end of June 1996 and its findings will be made public.
I am also concerned to ensure that work continues at EU level in particular, aimed at mapping out the relationship between member states moving to the single currency at the outset and those member states not in Economic and Monetary Union. The importance of this relationship is recognised by Article 109 M of the Treaty which requires countries not participating in Economic and Monetary Union to treat their exchange rate policies as a matter of common interest. I might add that the question of the relationship between the single currency and non-participating currencies is also a matter of concern to other member states and the importance of that work is fully recognised at EU level.