Leaving Certitude

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From top: Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan at a Brexit conference last month; Dr Kieran Allen

Why Britain – and then Ireland – should vote to leave the European Union.

Dr Kieran Allen writes:

If you’re Irish, you should vote Remain in the upcoming British referendum. This is the message that Enda Kenny and the political elite are pushing.

The Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, is spending €25,000 on persuading the British to stay. The ‘ heavy hitters’ of the ESRI, the Irish Exporters Association, the ICTU and the mainstream parties are warning about a calamity if there is a British exit.

It is all about putting on the green jersey to stop discussion on the nature of the EU itself but it rests on dubious assumptions.

There is a prediction that if Britain leaves the EU a new set of border controls will separate the North and South. However, a common travel area has existed between Ireland and Britain long before either country joined the EU.

It is also claimed that trade between Ireland and Britain would be in danger. Yet an Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement has been in place since 1965. And as both governments are ardent advocates of free trade, there is no reason to believe this will change.

If Britain votes to leave the EU, there should be a vote in southern Ireland to exit.

Supporters of Remain appear to have forgotten the role that the EU played in the economic crash of 2008.

Last year, the Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, told the Banking Inquiry that he was warned by the President of the European Central Bank that if he burned bondholders that a ‘bomb would go off’ in Dublin. A ‘bomb’ meant a financial explosion rather than an incendiary device.

The EU prefers to use financial methods rather than military intervention to change the policies of elected governments. When the left wing Syriza party was elected to government in Greece, the EU simply changed the rules so that its bank reserves ratios were reduced.

The result was a run on Greek banks and a turning of the financial screw until the Syriza government eventually capitulated.

The former President of the German Bundesbank Karl Otto Pöhl explained the ECB’s wider strategy:

“It was about protecting German banks, but especially the French banks, from debt write offs. On the day that the rescue package [with Greece] was agreed on, shares of French banks rose by up to 24 percent. Looking at that, you can see what this was really about – namely, rescuing the banks and the rich Greeks.”

As a result of these policies Ireland paid 42% of the total cost of the European banking crisis, at a cost of close to €9,000 per person.

The EU is a fundamentally undemocratic institution where an unelected EU Commission initiates legislation and ‘directives’. Complex, shadowy structures known as ‘trilogue committees’ then hammer out deals with members of the EU parliament.

This structure gives huge scope for the estimated 30,000 lobbyists who mainly represent corporate interests.

The secret negotiations over TTIP show exactly how it operates. Even elected members of the EU parliament are denied access to these trade negotiations.

Yet the EU Commission held 597 closed door meetings with lobbyists, with 87% coming from the corporate sector.

Budgets are no longer solely determined by national governments but are restricted by an ‘Annual Growth Survey’ that is promoted by the EU Commission.

Since the crash of 2008, the EU Commission has used its influence to increase the retirement age to 68 and to promote ‘labour activation’ policies to conscript youth into low paid schemes. It also supports increased ‘user fees’ such as water charges.

Governments are also prevented from borrowing to fund public services if their budget deficit is more than 3 percent of their GDP. Ireland is currently suffering from a huge housing crisis but EU rules prevent the state borrowing enough money to fund a major council house building programme.

National central banks have become agents for the European Central Bank and both are immune to any democratic pressure.

The Irish parliament, for example, recently passed a motion to reduce mortgage charges but were promptly told by the ’independent’ central bank that it would make no difference.

The EU Directorate General of Competition cracks down on state aid and promotes privatisation. Any public service defined as a ‘service of general economic interest’ must be opened up to market competition.

This whole undemocratic edifice provides a shelter for the political elites to tell their electorate that they have ‘no choice’ but to impose unpopular policies. Listen to Enda Kenny talk about water charges and you get the idea.

But what about the EU’s ‘progressive role’ on human rights?

Many of the advocates of Brexit are racists who imagine that the National Health Service could be run with migrant workers. Their insular fanaticism makes anyone look progressive.

However, the EU’s own rhetoric about refugees has helped to legitimise fears about migrants. It has taken in only a tiny number of Syrian refugees.

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has been forthright in his condemnation, claiming that the EU could easily take in one million migrants, a number that would represent barely 0.2 percent of its population.

In comparison, up to 26 percent of Lebanon’s population is made up of Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

One only has to look at the number of refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean—now dubbed ‘the world’s most lethal graveyard’—to see how hollow is the EU’s rhetoric of human rights.

Instead of a false debate about ‘Ireland’s national interest’, it is best to acknowledge that some Irish people gain from the EU’s influence over our affairs. The majority do not.

That is why I would encourage a vote to leave.

Kieran Allen is a sociology lecturer at University College Dublin. He is a member of People Before Profit.

48 thoughts on “Leaving Certitude

  1. Joe Small

    “Yet an Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement has been in place since 1965”
    Yes but only until 1973. Ireland can’t have its own trade agreement with the UK if they leave – the EU has sole competence here. I’ll not be taking economics or trade policy lessons from a sociology lecturer, whatever his political affiliation.

    1. scottser

      There is no need for panic. The UK will retain its clout with the other European countries and will make its treaties according to need by parties concerned. Schengen and border problems are all up for discussion in the next few years and you can bet the EU won’t reach consensus and it’ll be left to each state to greater define and secure its borders.

  2. Harry Molloy

    Border control to the north would happen, not sure in what guise but it definitely would happen.
    Probably the biggest motivation for Brexit is border control so why would they leave the back door open?

    On trade agreements, I’m open to correction, but I do not believe Ireland, or any EU country, can agree to individual trade deals rather as opposed to community wide deals.

  3. Shane

    British and Irish men died for Europe.
    Britain should not want to pull away from the thing they helped create. We are all European its something to be proud of.

    1. Harry Molloy

      This is really worth remembering and I’m surprised I’ve heard little of it in any debate.
      Europe literally tore itself apart twice in the twentieth century and it’s only following the establishment of a European Community, and an economic interdependence, that such a thing now seems unfathomable.
      Of course you can say that the EU has turned into a monster but you won’t get to make any changes standing outside.
      I suppose the writer is PBP so its true to form that they would prefer to be outside and complaining rather than inside making tough decisions…

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        It was mentioned and then was interpreted by the media as the EU preventing WW3. Everyone laughed (although it wasn’t what was said) and promptly ignored it.

      2. J

        No mention of Climate Change nor how low paid workers would be effected by a Brexit. No consideration given to UK position within EU market which allows UK business to compete globally. No mention of the EU strive for political stability and the consequences of it (peace, social justice? ) No mention of workers rights , safety standards, environmental & social impact , access to ECJ etc etc. How will UK and Ireland in isolation tackle corporate corruption, Mr Person before Profit?

  4. John Cassidy

    Does it annoy anyone else when The Republic of Ireland is referred to as southern Ireland? I’m not a big RA head or anything but it does irk me.

      1. ahjayzis

        No different to English news reports referring to Brazil’s “Congress” though. And English isn’t even one of their first languages.

    1. ahjayzis

      I’ve actually heard quite a few Bremain and Brexit people talking about the border between “Northern Ireland and Ireland” which is progress.

      It’s “Irish Republic” that gets me, the BBC use it all the time. That’s not the name of the country – we don’t refer to Britain as the “British Constitutional Monarchy.”

      1. some old queen

        Ireland is an island with two separate jurisdictions. ROI Ireland. ROI and NI = Ireland.

        Lets hope Theresa Villiers is right when she says there will be no hard border between the two because otherwise, all hell will break loose.

        1. some old queen

          Oh some of my symbols have disappeared. Once more for Jesus.

          Ireland is an island with two separate jurisdictions. ROI does equal Ireland. ROI and NI equals Ireland.

        2. ahjayzis

          But the name of that republic is Ireland. As recognised by the UN, OECD, EU, WTO, The Eurovision Song Contest. I think there’s a Wikipedia article on this whole dispute, but the gist of it is the British tried to quibble and block that being our name, but we won out and that’s the name of our country. It’s really only the BBC and the odd newspaper in Britain that uses anything else.

          1. some old queen

            No. You have that one the wrong way around. The ROI equals Ireland only came about under the Good Friday agreement and was in hindsight considered a clever tactic by the Unionists who wanted to cement the terms Ireland and UK.

            But the geographical fact is that NI is in Ireland but also in the UK. Although if hard borders go up that will be on a timeline. SF are already talking about a referendum if Brexit wins, along with another one for Scotland of course.

          2. ahjayzis

            “The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland” – Article 4 of the Constitution, which predates the GFA. That’s why the country name on your passport is “Ireland”. They didn’t run out of ink!

            Honestly, have a read of the wiki history of it, it’s actually surprisingly interesting. Bottom line is, this battle’s been won – the name of the country is Ireland in every international forum despite British protests, they’ve even resigned themselves to it.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_the_Irish_state

            It’s not like we’re the only country that shares a name with our greater landmass.

        3. some old queen

          @ ahjayzis

          Ok fair point about the distinction between the island and the country but….

          Half the people in NI carry an Irish passport without ever having lived in ROI and they can apply or renew at their local post office. They even carry two driving licenses, one for NI and one for Britain so Irish citizenship is fully recognised within NI.

          Mind you, northerners would also take issue with the term ‘free state’ but more along the lines that there is nothing free about it and they’d even fleece you for air if they could. :-)

  5. kev

    Common Travel Area existed before the EU, yes, but Ireland and the UK joined at the same time. If UK leaves we will become a frontier of the EU, between two non-schengan countries. Border controls will apply, and will bring its own set of problems.

    1. ahjayzis

      I think it’ll come down to passport checks between NI and Britain, to be fair. For logistical reasons alone. You already need ID to board a ferry or flight.

        1. Frilly Keane

          Well we had the PT card there for a bit
          Ferry crossings and flights only tho

          ‘ never saw them being handed out on the train

          I used ta refuse to fill them out when I was on me own
          In a group, like a school tour, I’d fill it out with moccie ahh stuff

  6. rotide

    Sure, lets go back to the good old days of the 1950s and 60s when we were a superpower in our own right.

    As a nation, we never had it so good as the last 30 years (yes, the last 8 have been hairy) and that’s been almost entirely due being in the EU.

    PBP should stick to the water charges and not invent things like common travel areas that clearly don’t and won’t exist anymore,

    1. Anomanomanom

      None of that is an issuse. Britain are huge power economy wise. Ireland is not, where would we borrow money from him the EU decided to have its friends stop loaning to us. I would like to see Ireland leave and total control over our affairs, but is it realistic, not even a little bit.

      1. classter

        I don’t understand this ‘control of our own affairs’ thing, either in the UK or in Ireland.

        National parliaments still control most things. What is it that they or we want to control that we cannot?

        The bulk of UK’s immigration is from outside Europe. Net migration of non-EU nationals constituted 95% of total net migration to the UK in 2011. They can control this 95% just as well post-Brexit as pre-Brexit.

        1. some old queen

          Just wondering where your 95% immigration from outside Europe figure is coming from?

        2. ahjayzis

          It was actually on about par last year. Something like 183k from Europe, 186k from outside Europe.

          Which is a load of bollix really since if we’re so overrun, it’s within the governments power to literally half immigration by closing the door to non Europeans, but whatevs.

    2. classter

      ‘that’s been almost entirely due being in the EU.’

      I completely support staying in the EU but that is not true.

      Our turn in fortunes began before 1973, i.e. well before we joined the EU.
      The big change for us was a change in our own mindset & cultural/family/heritage ties with the US as it became the economic superpower following WW2.

        1. classter

          He’s part of the change of mindset – less protectionism, actively targeting economic growth, encouraging foreign direct investment…

          Free education had a massive impact also.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            I’m know FFer but I’d say he might be our most important ever Taoiseach. Look at what you listed there again. We were Catholic Iran before him.

          2. Rob_G

            True – but policies like ‘less protectionism’ and ‘encouraging foreign direct investment’ were certainly made a lot easier to pursue when we joined a large trading bloc.

      1. Frilly Keane

        Sorry lads

        But free education had an enormous amount do with our transformation from Catholic Iran
        (As Moyest.etc would say)

        Don’t ever underestimate it’s impact
        And contribution to our economy

  7. Eoin

    Come on Britain! Leave! Purge yourself of the rot before they pass TTIP and start recruiting/ drafting for the Euro Army!

    1. ahjayzis

      Or stay in and veto TTIP.

      Oh no wait, there’ll still be a Tory government who’ll flog even more of our freedoms in the name of free trade.

  8. Andy

    Christ, this is pathetic. Another UCD lecturer opens his mouth and devalues the degrees of its alumni.

    “However, a common travel area has existed between Ireland and Britain long before either country joined the EU.”
    – Yes, and when we joined the EU we joined together. If they leave, then we will be within the EU and the UK won’t. Border controls will be required – possibly between NI ports/airports and the UK rather than along the Border with Ireland. However, the Brits will have to decide how they run that as migrants could enter the UK from the Republic and seek rights there which one would assume would be transferable to the mainland. Either way it is not as simple as “we did it before, we can do it again”. To espouse that is a lie.

    “Yet an Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement has been in place since 1965”
    – Same as above. When we both joined the EU our rights to negotiate individual trade deals were subjugated to the EU.

    “When the left wing Syriza party was elected to government in Greece, the EU simply changed the rules so that its bank reserves ratios were reduced.”
    – The EU did no such thing. For a start your claim makes absolutely no sense. If the ECB wanted to pressure Greece it would INCREASE minimum reserve ratios, not decrease them. The ECB applies the same rules to all EU Banks – minimum collateral standards. They bent over backwards to allow Geeek Banks pledge Greek assets as collateral for ELA.
    A prerequisite of Greek state bonds being acceptable ELA collateral was the country remain wihtin a bailout packages (sames as Ireland, Spain, Portugal etc). ECB ELA was required by Greek citizens and corporates were pulling their cash out of Greek banks at a rate of knots because they were scared that the banks would collapse under Syriza. The ECB never called in the ELA – they simply stopped with about 100bn lent to Greek Banks. The only reason the ECB stopped providing incremental ELA was because the Syriza govt failed to agree a bailout extension. Which they subsequently did anyway.

    “42% of Bank bailout?”
    – This is total bull and purely regurgitates the propoganda of Micahel Taft. The 42% figure is dependent on the form the bailouts took rather than the actual quantum of money injected into the banks.
    Seamus Coffee explains why the figures is nonsense:
    http://economic-incentives.blogspot.com/2013/02/deficit-debt-and-expenditure-impacting.html

    Total European bank bailout priced at about €600bn – €60bn was irish (10%). High for our small size but no where near 42%.
    Hypo cost the German govt €100bn alone. RBS cost the brits GBP 20bn, Lloyds & HBOS cost them GBP 17bn. Bankia bank in spain was nationalized needing a €24bn bailout. The Dutch bailed out Fortis & ABN AMro for €17bn and SNS Reaal for €14bn.

    “The EU is a fundamentally undemocratic institution where an unelected EU Commission initiates legislation and ‘directives’.”
    – The commission is comprised of Commissioners appointed by the parliaments of each member state. You know, those parliaments the people vote in.

    “Budgets are no longer solely determined by national governments but are restricted by an ‘Annual Growth Survey’ that is promoted by the EU Commission.”
    The Irish voted in 2012 to accept the EU Fiscal Treaty – it required a referendum. We actively voted to change our constitution to permit this. It can’t get any more democratic than this.

    “National central banks have become agents for the European Central Bank and both are immune to any democratic pressure.”
    – This is possibly the stupidest part of the entire thing. NCB’s the world over are separate from National Parliaments. National Central Banks of Euro countries are agencies of the ECB. Since we joined the Euro they always have been. There is nothing new in this. This is a case of “Ignorant person finally realizes how something works and wants to complain”

    Awful article, full of lies & misinformation.

    1. Andy

      Correction:
      “ECB ELA was required by Greek BANKS BECAUSE Greek citizens and corporates were pulling their cash out “

    2. some old queen

      The commission is comprised of Commissioners appointed by the parliaments of each member state. You know, those parliaments the people vote in.

      We sent clowns like Flynn, McCreevy and Hogan. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the institution now does it?

      1. Kieran NYC

        It says more about us than it does about the EU, tbh. We treat it as a Super-Seanad, with more perks.

    3. Kieran NYC

      +1

      I genuinely think they sit around PBP offices drawing up a list of everything they’re against (which is everything) and half-a$$ing the reasons why later.

      They don’t even seem to care about the economic sabotage they’d inflict on the country if their policies were ever implemented. But hey, at least we’d all be equally poor together.

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