Lisbon Essay (23): Why Ireland can’t afford the Lisbon Treaty…

Niamh Uí Bhriain of Cóir sites her anti Lisbon argument in the material crisis of the Tiger economy. Nevertheless she notes that “the Lisbon Treaty is not about providing jobs or encouraging enterprise – it’s a treaty designed to centralise political power in the European Union”. She denies there are any short term economic consequences to signing up to the EU, but that in the longer term it leaves Ireland strategically weaker inside the EU… The attraction for foreign firms is primarily related to the low corporation tax levels, something she believes would be vulnerable to a centrally strengthened EU, whose interests are inevitably dominated by the larger beasts in the Union like Germany and France…

By Niamh Uí Bhriain

Right now, two issues causing serious concern for many Irish people are jobs and taxes. To be precise, there are not enough jobs and too many taxes. Unemployment has reached a staggering height, with 450,000 people now out of work. The government has indebted future generations to bail out the banks – who then went on to increase mortgage payments for cash-strapped customers.

Savage cuts in spending are set to hit the most vulnerable hard, and many agree that the largesse of the Celtic Tiger was simply wasted.

The strain of all this on ordinary families is simply enormous, and the political leadership required for recovery is not in evidence. Instead, the government and opposition are joined in a mad fandango which hopes to persuade the Irish people to vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty.

The following facts are important to remember. Without the Lisbon Treaty, we’re still a full member of the EU, and we can’t be thrown out. We still have access to all EU markets. We can still borrow from EU Banks.

That’s because the Lisbon Treaty is not about providing jobs or encouraging enterprise – it’s a treaty designed to centralise political power in the European Union. But that bid to create a federal super state also

Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD, an economist and expert in banking, was one of the few who foresaw the crash. Now he warns that “Lisbon will not aid the recession, and is, in fact, likely to make things worse.” Here’s why.

Up to 150,000 people are employed by multinationals based in Ireland. Those companies come here because of our low corporate tax rate; something which has long rankled with other EU member states who feel this policy gives Ireland has an unfair advantage in attracting investment. The Lisbon Treaty allows our low taxes to be attacked – with disastrous effects as multinationals leave taking badly-needed jobs with them.

The government is desperately denying that this is the case, but the truth was exposed by none other than the Irish EU Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy. He admitted in an Irish Independent interview that the EU’s ‘long term hidden agenda’ was to ‘take control of taxation’.

And the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, let the cat out of the bag when she announced plans to push hard to encourage EU states to agree a common method of computing corporate taxes – the Common Consolidated Tax Base. “It has been going on for a long time, it’s an issue that we are determined to push” she said.

The government wants the electorate to accept assurances issued by the EU Council on taxation – and other important issues such as abortion – but as Judge Frank Clarke, Chairman of the Referendum Commission wrote in the Irish Times, those statements won’t change the Lisbon Treaty. They are not part of EU law and are not legally binding in EU law.

And at a time when wages are already being hit hard, the treaty also allows big business to import cheap labour and undercut Irish workers. This is grossly unfair on both sets of workers, but has been given the stamp of approval in a series of recent EU court cases. Lisbon will bring a race to the bottom in terms of wages – a serious blow to struggling families who will be forced to take a paycut or see their jobs go elsewhere.

Cóir’s ?1.84” poster highlights this downward pressure on wages, which is being driven by the EU in support of big business. Quite simply, if the EU allows contractors to import labour to Ireland and pay them the minimum wage of their country of origin, Irish workers face a very bleak future. We’ve already lost our fishing industry to the EU – and that loss has been valued at a shocking €200 billion by the EU Commission.

The EU hampers our right to promote Irish goods, and is now threatening our ability to attract foreign companies here to provide jobs. And under Lisbon , the EU can levy direct taxes on us for the first time; the last thing we need as levies and extra taxes hit our wages and pensions.

We were repeatedly told last year that if we voted No to Lisbon we would see a fall in job-creating direct investment from abroad. But an Ernest and Young report issued in June showed that such investment increased substantially in 2008 as companies like Hewlett Packard brought a glimmer of hope, creating up to a 1,000 new jobs in the midst of the crash.

It’s important for investors to see that we can retain control of our economy. We’re a small country in crisis, and we need to be able to set the policies which can help us to recover. Eurozone policies have been generally set to suit bigger countries such as France and Germany. This meant that interest rates were too low at a crucial time for Ireland, something that, according to Minister Brian Lenihan, helped to cause the bubble.

But the Lisbon Treaty loses us power and influence in Europe. It means we become less influential at a time when we need to be in control. It means our needs will be secondary to what the bigger member states desire. We just can’t afford this bad treaty.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty