IMAGINE the scene next weekend when Enda Kenny returns from the Brussels summit. One of the most humiliating episodes in Ireland’s history will be spun as a triumph.
Neville Chamberlain’s return from Munich in 1938 declaring “Peace in our Time” will be in the halfpenny place. Stepping off the government jet, Enda will modestly reveal to a waiting media how he (with the help of Angela Merkel) has saved the euro.
Irish interests will have been “protected”; exports will be safe; the ATMs will work on Monday morning; Europe will have agreed to the same sort of “stability” mechanisms as Ireland had championed; the markets will be tamed. Enda’s gang of spinners will paint our eternal imprisonment as the great escape.
Last Wednesday in the Dail we were given a glimpse of Irish preparations for the summit of European leaders. Enda treated us to a masterpiece of camouflage. The first line of his speech promised to “brief the House ahead of the European Council in Brussels . . .”
It was a briefing without a single specific policy. Seven pages of empty rhetoric exposed the Taoiseach and his entourage as heading for Brussels stark naked. He gave no hint of Ireland’s demands, let alone our vital interests. The nearest he came to spelling out our approach was when he cravenly warned that “I will be reminding colleagues that economically Ireland remains vulnerable.”
He can say that again. And he did. Two paragraphs down he feebly repeated: “We will continue to need the support and solidarity of our European and international partners for some time to come”.
The Taoiseach took up the negotiating stance of a genuflector. He was inviting the masters of Europe to kick us when we are on our knees. No one will give us a kicking better than Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. They have had plenty of practice.
We will be the beggars of Brussels. Enda’s script spelled out our weakness in eurobabble that would have made our Franco-German masters salivate. We needed “clear decisions” to prove “our shared determination to protect our currency”. We would pursue “economic co-ordination in the euro area”. Rhubarb, rhubarb all the way.
The words of our leader’s speech were hardly crafted by a patriot in the Department of the Taoiseach. Instead, they were worthy of blind euro- zealots. The speech could have been written in the European Commission offices or dictated by President Barroso himself. At one point the scribe was carried away by his own enthusiasm: the script eulogised the “great” deal agreed in October “on banks, on the European Financial and Stability Fund, on restoring debt sustainability to Greece”.
The Taoiseach was nimble enough on his feet to drop the word “great”. Good thinking. Six weeks later the EFSF is a broken reed, rejected by the sceptical investment world; Greek debt is still a nightmare; October’s “great deal” is in tatters.
It took one of the Dail’s most colourful sharpshooters to denounce the Taoiseach’s words as “baloney”. Mattie McGrath, the fearless Tipperary South TD, rose to his feet and demanded the Taoiseach wear the green jersey.
McGrath was spot on. Our Government has been brainwashed by eurothink. Unable to put Ireland first, they have been seduced by European trappings, intimidated by ECB chief Trichet, Merkel and Sarkozy, flattered by the bowing, scraping and the grandeur. Cabinet members show signs of having been captured by the pomp of the Elysee Palace, the power of the Bundestag. Given a choice between Mattie’s green jersey and their own white flag they now instinctively reach for the symbol of surrender.
Anyone reading the foreign press would have known that the bones of a deal had already been cooked. It was less apparent from the code words used by Enda. According to the Taoiseach’s meaningless message, we will strengthen “economic union” and “economic convergence”. He prudently slipped in the need for “fiscal discipline”. He went so far as to concede the possibility of “limited treaty changes”.
We were being softened up for cataclysmic constitutional change. Ireland is about to embark on a final surrender of our sovereignty, dressed up as a package to save the euro. The last Fianna Fail government conceded a temporary capitulation when it shamefully landed the nation’s independence in the lap of the EU/ IMF. The present outfit is plotting to make our prostration permanent.
Europe’s next destination is already apparent. Germany’s Merkel and strong countries like Finland, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium are demanding “fiscal union” (not the more polite “fiscal discipline”) as the price for rescuing Europe. The weaker countries are squealing for the ECB to flood the market with liquidity to save the currency. The short-term fixers are in direct conflict with the long- term advocates of austerity.
Enda is squatting under the radar in the short-term fixers’ corner, positioning himself to join the stampede towards the hardline German haven.
Not surprisingly, his speech never once mentioned Angela’s “fiscal union” agenda. Last Friday morning the German chancellor had no such coyness, signalling that she is likely to give her blessing to an ECB intervention — provided she receives cast iron assurances on her pet project.
France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and other malingerers will be allowed to call the diktat “fiscal discipline”, but her message was clear: stronger countries will be able to veto the budgets of weaker nations. German, Dutch and Finnish lovers of austerity will dictate Irish taxation and expenditure measures to the letter .
All that nonsense beloved of Enda and Michael — about regaining our economic sovereignty when we have repaid our creditors — will be exposed as humbug. Fiscal union will terminally suffocate our aspirations to regaining financial independence.
Fiscal union means handing over our tax affairs to a European body, or even to a European Minister for Finance. Down that road lies tax harmonisation. Everybody in Ireland knows those two words spell an end to our 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate.
Last Friday morning Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore denied there was any fresh threat to our corporate tax. He is whistling past the graveyard. A mere few months after it was parked, the 12.5 per cent rate is back wobbling along the road to ruin. Last Thursday evening, Enda’s nemesis, Nicolas Sarkozy, had made a speech revealing his recipe for euro rescue. Nicolas’ words were a planet apart from Enda’s Dail offering.
Nicolas boasted about impending treaty changes. Ominously for Ireland, he talked about small countries losing their veto. His words sent a shudder running down the spine of every Irish citizen.
Not a very subtle way of telling Enda and other euro hangers-on that the corporate tax game was up; that Ireland is heading for satellite status.
Next weekend’s probable spin on how Ireland saved the euro should not convince anyone that we have bagged a good deal. When the euro is saved on Franco-German terms, we will face decades of subjection to a European tax and expenditure regime. We will become citizens of a European super finance ministry. We will have a gun put to our heads as we rubber stamp referendums to order.
The collapse of the euro is a terrifying prospect, but let us not portray an imminent humiliation in pursuit of saving the currency as a triumph for Ireland.