Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Why We Should Vote No at the End of May

Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland are the foremost EU/eurozone countries requiring amendments in the crisis measures they face. Germany is blocking them. We support Germany. By holding firm the EU aims to impose huge further financial burdens on eurozone countries through the ESM Treaty and the amending Article 136.

The referendum empowers a threshold treaty, arguably illegally under our Constitution and law, and makes way for the European Stability Mechanism, together with the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties, effectively, in sovereignty terms, sealing our fate.

This ESM Treaty, more pernicious than the Fiscal Compact Treaty, is being passed by simple Dail majority and – if we believe Mr Noonan and Mr Bruton – is because the begging bowl held out for more money will be left empty if we do not co-operate with the EU.

This makes the begging bowl the central expression of government policy. It will dictate our future lives through our part in the colossal funding of more resources for the bankrupt EU and for the banking system they are propping up because they know no other way.

These Government commitments put us permanently in the hands of an organization that will take over the amending of present and future EU laws and treaties, doing so under no democratic control at all. How then can we trust it?

The energies that once comprised Ireland’s sovereignty will be engaged in paying colossal financial dues to the Stability Mechanism. If we vote Yes to the Fiscal Compact Treaty we open ourselves to this surrender of sovereignty. The begging bowl becomes our way forward.

The European Stability Mechanism is above the law. In due course it is as likely as every other failed solution to help bankrupt the eurozone and will do nothing to solve Europe's economic crisis. This is its unaccountability under Article 32 of its proposed structure: ‘The ESM, its property, funding and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process except to the extent that the ESM expressly waives its immunity …’

This is oligarchy without any oligarchs. Its creation represents a new level of control that will allow its contravention of Treaties we once agreed were sacrosanct. That basic idea in European law has been trampled in the mud.

The present Government, in respect of these developments, is trying to find truth in that mud and in the possibility that further debased coinage can be rescued from it while at the same time democracy drowns in it.

These issues should be put to the people by referendum. They are more serious than any EU referendum that has gone before and the confining of the present referendum to the preliminary threshold event of ratifying the Fiscal Compact is simply an absurdity. It is like putting a plug into a vessel before filling it with a poison that will destroy us, the balance of toxic matter becoming fatal.

I referred to other countries in trouble meeting EU conditions. The odd addition is France and its new president, Francois Hollande, with whom Enda Kenny initiated friendly relations, seeing him as some kind of companion. Yet the French president’s objectives are European tax harmonization, which will drain jobs from Ireland and other member states currently benefiting from essential tax competition. Weakening tax competitors will give Hollande a temporary investment boost as those jobs shift location to the centres of population and rail distribution in Europe. Hollande wants to introduce a financial transactions tax from which the IFSC will suffer. Nevertheless, Francois Hollande and his Finance Minister intend to re-negotiate the Treaty. If him, why not us? Recklessly, we are giving away the farm without knowing the new deal. And the new deal is not just for France. Greece is fighting for its survival in the euro, Spain and Portugal are fighting for the same.

We have thrown in the towel and the Government is taking the begging-bowl stance as an expression of policy.

Are there alternatives? Declan Ganley’s re-entry, espousing a No vote, bases his case on positive objectives the first of which is his stated belief that Europe’s insolvency which is fuelling the draconian new laws and systems should inspire a true federal democratic union to replace the totalitarian system of government no longer answerable to the people. It is now a joke remembering the claims once made by leading MEPs about their share in the European democratic mandate. Powerlessly, they participate in a wake.

We should not want to see Greece, the most perilously placed state in the eurozone, being coerced into laws it can’t keep and then being threatened. That is a recipe for break up.

Ganley’s suggestions remind us of the distant days when we joined the EEC. This should inspire widespread hesitation over the course we are now on. He suggests regulating and purging financial institutions that are the holes through which vast amounts of money are draining away under EU leadership protection. State debts, he believes, should be federalized under an EU federal government. The present approach is un-monitored and authoritarian as well as being based on austerity. And it is creating the unworkable disparities between the strong economies and the weak ones, with Greece on the further edge of this frozen situation.

Ganley’s belief, in which I share, includes the issuing of a European Union bond to finance the needs of a new Federal Union government as well as individual states.
Member states will be free to borrow directly from the markets on the understanding that they could be forced into bankruptcy, full losses incurred by lenders, if they fail to meet repayment terms.

He also proposes the key objective of creating a workable democracy in Europe – at present it has none at all – by merging the two positions of president of the European Commission and president of the European Council into one office-holder directly elected. This president would serve for one six-year-term only, and would be chief executive in the same manner as the president of the United States.

The EU Commission, which has failed to govern or safeguard, would become the servant of the executive arm, its members nominated by the democratically elected president, and ratified by a new upper house of the European Parliament.

‘We are now,’ Ganley says, ‘in the midst of the modern historic era's third attempt to unite Europe, Napoleon being the first, and Hitler being the second. This latest attempt, for the first time founded to achieve noble and peaceful aims, should be given the chance to succeed but only on condition that it subjects itself now to democratic accountability, lest it depart on a road to something far less bearable.’

That is why we should be voting No in a fortnight’s time, so that we can retain a more powerful voice instead of becoming no more than carriers of a begging bowl.