How come the Irish get to break Swiss banking secrecy?

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Ireland has signed a new tax treaty with Switzerland. As the Irish Independent reports:

THE [Irish] State is to gain access to the names of Irish citizens who hold secret Swiss bank accounts.

Switzerland has long been famous for its banking secrecy but it will start handing over the names and addresses of any Irish residents holding bank accounts there next year when a new agreement is officially signed.

Under the agreement, the Revenue will have the power to seek details of any Irish citizen who held a Swiss bank account over the past five years. It has confirmed it will impose taxes and penalties if interest on the account has not been paid up.

If true this is extraordinary. The UK and Germany have just indicated they’ll be signing deals that will reinforce Swiss banking secrecy and yet this story implies Ireland has broken through it.

Of course the journalist may have just got the wrong end of the stick but it doesn’t quite feel that way – it has the feeling of being based on an official briefing.

If the Irish have done this then it’s time for George Osborne to go marching back to Zurich and demand the same. Because if Swiss banking serious is really being cracked then why is the UK not demanding access?