Ireland No to Europe: Commentary

From the Telegraph:

Irish right to craic the whip over EU treaty

By Liam Halligan

Last Updated: 1:38am BST 15/06/2008

Against the advice of the major political parties and most of the media, Irish voters have rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Good for them.

That’s a perfectly reasonable response to an agreement which is not only absurdly complex, but also replicates the problems inherent in the ghastly EU constitution spurned by the French and Dutch in 2005.

Amid the acres of commentary on this issue, as an economist of Irish stock, allow me to add my two penn’orth.

First, this vote is not “ungrateful, seeing how the Irish have benefited from Europe”.

Yes, when Ireland was a relatively poor EU member it did receive some “structural funding”.

But it is wrong to say – as the Europhiles claim – that Ireland “owes” its new-found wealth to Europe.

Ireland has prospered because in the early 1980s it had the courage to slash red-tape and corporate tax rates.

It transformed itself into an ultra-friendly investment destination – harnessing its well-educated workforce.

The second myth is that this “was a vote against an unpopular government rather than the Treaty”. Wrong again. As a recent poll in the Irish Times shows, the top three reasons for voting “No” were all arguments against the Treaty.

The Irish rejected this document because they “want to keep power and identity”, they want “to safeguard Ireland’s neutrality” and they “don’t like being told what to do”.

The disgraceful thing is the Irish political elite may well now ask their electorate to vote again – as they did when the Nice Treaty was rejected in 2001. That’s almost as outrageous as refusing them a vote in the first place.

• Liam Halligan is Chief Economist at Prosperity Capital Management

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