Ireland has been an EU member state for the last four decades. A lot has changed in that time – for one, we are now EU net contributors as opposed to solely recipients of EU money. In 2014, we contributed €1.62 billion to the EU. Mentioning that figure alone indicates that our membership is becoming more disadvantageous by the day and hidden amidst the constant Brexit-bashing and Angela-appeasing are some reasons why we might actually consider waving ciao to Europe.
What began as an economic experiment designed to stave off pesky world wars has morphed into a veritable Frankenstein’s monster of over-regulation, undemocratic practices and inharmonious and unbalanced fiscal policy.
It is not easy to admit when Maggie Thatcher, hunger strikes and B-Specials are still in living memory but the UK is, economically speaking, our closest ally. With the advent of Brexit it makes sense for us to follow suit. According to a recent piece by Trinity’s Associate Professor Emeritus in Social Policy Anthony Coughlan, it should be obvious to any of us that when Brexit occurs Ireland will have to pay more towards the EU budget to make up for the loss of UK contributions. Do we really want to be lumped with this burden? Have we not been saddled with enough debt already?
Remaining in the EU will certainly leave us vulnerable. Coughlan also points out that without Britain as an ally in the EU it will become harder to protect our low rate of company profit tax which has been an undoubtable boost to our economy.
Additionally, Coughlan indicates that without Britain, it will be harder to protect our fisheries – European boats haul in great profit for the EU from Irish seas – and it will be harder to protect our own ideals when it comes to trade, law and justice, and the military. Why should we leave ourselves open to such an attack on our own values? Setting up on our own with a close relationship with the UK is clearly more beneficial than remaining behind to be crucified by European policy.
In terms of trade, we currently export 16% of our goods to the UK – the most out of all the European countries. We also can thank America for a lot of our foreign industry in the country. With more ties soon to be outside of the EU, it is certainly high time we consider if it is where our closest loyalties should lie.
It is also high time we took a closer inspection of what it means to be a member of the EU. The EU is slowly becoming a working model for globalism – it aims to mould its members into one united nation. Should we willingly go along with this?
Firstly, our geographic location sets us apart from the continent – the closest I ever feel to being a citizen of Europe is when purchasing a croissant in the Bialann. Secondly, allowing this mass union to occur is detrimental to our own democracy. For example, we were the only country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty by referendum and we had to re-vote when we didn’t give the answer Europe wanted to hear. This hardly espouses fairness or the founding ideal upon which the EU was founded: united by diversity. Diversity of opinion was not appreciated on this day. We said no and the EU asked again, it was sure to pass. Think of your granny offering you cake, you’re bound to say yes after refusing the first time even if it’s just to appease her.
Britain are not alone in wanting distance from the EU. With radical politicians such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders emerging from the fringes of domestic politics, the trend at the moment does seem to involve ditching the EU, shutting up shop and keeping everyone out. I am not suggesting Ireland become entrenched in a policy of xenophobic isolationism but rather we should really look at the merits that come with not being part of one European mish-mash of non-descript countries and borders.
I hinted earlier that leaving could very well be an opportunity to reinvent ourselves – or at least rejuvenate our image. Our current exemplary Irish education system could work towards providing Irish jobs for Irish citizens – rather than them having to leave behind their country that has been shackled with payments to Europe.
Éirexit could also be our opportunity to assess the division between north and south, to assess whether one nation is a feasible option. We should remember that remaining in the EU without Britain would leave us in a precarious predicament. Northern Ireland would be following UK guidelines while the South would still follow EU law and policy. Avoiding this could potentially prevent further differences between north and south and instead result in a giant leap of progress in achieving further unity and co-operation on our island.
For now Éirexit is little other than a thought to be mulled over by social commentators and columnists. Being a member of the EU does open doors to the continent particularly for students on Erasmus programmes, and realistically we do have a lot to consider if Éirexit is to become a reality. But the fiscal possibilities are endless. What would you spend the 1.62 billion we pump into Europe on? Our ailing health service could surely do with an injection of capital. Outside from direct contributions, we would also gain financially from actually being allowed to fish our own waters.
-By Sorcha O’Connor
Image from the Irish Times