Sinn Féin debate Chair of BP Peter Sutherland on Lisbon
Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald today debated the Lisbon Treaty with former EU Commissioner and Director General of the WTO and current Chairperson of BP and Goldman Sachs International, Peter Sutherland in DublinCastle at a National Forum on Europe organised event.
The Dublin MEP’s address focussed on foreign direct investment and the implications of the Treaty on Ireland’s ability to determine its own tax base.
Ms McDonald said:
“Ireland’s place is in Europe. Proponents of the Lisbon Treaty who are endeavouring to reduce the debate to a discussion on whether Ireland’s place is in or out of Europe are doing the people of this state a huge disservice. The Lisbon Treaty is the single biggest decision the Irish people have been asked to take on future of Europe in the history of the Union. Central to this debate are the economic implications for Ireland, Europe and the wider world should the Treaty be ratified.
“Building a prosperous and equal economy is the core of Sinn Féin’s vision for Ireland. It is because we seek to build a sustainable democratic Europe, where economic development is based on social inclusion and cohesion, environmental sustainability, high quality public services and real competitiveness, with greater economic control over management of the economy that we cannot support this Treaty.
“Foreign direct investment in Ireland is a significant factor in our economy creating thousands of jobs in the pharmaceutical and IT sectors. Proponents of the Treaty have claimed that Foreign Direct Investment will dry up if the Lisbon Treaty is rejected. This is nonsense and serves only to distract attention from the content of the Treaty. In France following the rejection of the EU Constitution inflows of Foreign Direct Investment reached historic highs for two consecutive years.
“Ireland can remain an attractive location for investment and our position in the EU will be secure long into the future.
“However it is clear that Ireland is facing the challenge of coping with an economy in transition. International circumstances, the sharp rise in oil prices, the declining value of the dollar and an international credit crunch pose serious challenges to our economy.
“We had a slow down in construction and property sectors. However the culprit is government policy which has left the economy over-reliant on such cash cows. We have also experienced a significant string of job losses, particularly in the manufacturing and low skill sectors.
“What is critical now is that we develop a strategy for the next generation of jobs in the Irish economy. We need to integrate economies north and south. We need to create new ways to attract Foreign Direct Business. We cannot compete with the emerging economies on the basis of low cost. We must improve competitiveness by investing in infrastructure, education, research and development, and up-skilling and retraining workers.
“We will face these challenges as full members of the EU. However the Lisbon Treaty if ratified will hinder efforts to ensure that Ireland is economically and socially successful.
“The implications of the Lisbon Treaty on Ireland’s ability to determine its own tax base have been dismissed by proponents of this Treaty. This has been a deliberate effort to shut down debate on this element of Lisbon. Fianna Fáil MEP Eoin Ryan sought the postponement of a European Parliament Report on CCCBT until after the Irish Referendum as he believed any discussion on this topic could have undesirable consequences.
“Let there be no doubt that the EU having secured its position in relation to monetary policy now has its sights set on fiscal policy. Tax harmonisation has been repeatedly endorsed by the European Parliament including MEPs from Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The EU Commission has drafted proposals for introducing a Common EU Tax Base for company taxes, but it too has postponed its publication for the time being.
“The Lisbon Treaty provides for qualified majority voting on laws governing foreign direct investment and international agreements on foreign investment. There are also growing concerns from Irish business regarding how the Lisbon Treaty will impinge on taxation, particularly corporation tax.
“Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty will permit the European Council to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in key areas including company taxation. Proponents of the treaty point to the fact that unanimity is required on taxation matters. What they fail to point up is that a mechanism to remove that very veto is also contained in the treaty.
“It is my firm belief that the system of taxation is properly a matter for this state to decide. The government ought to have secured an opt-out for Ireland on all taxation related matters. They failed to do this. This could be properly addressed in a new Treaty.
“The EU has done much over the years to promote a more social Europe. Unfortunately in the last decade these gains have been undermined by successive treaties that have sought to sacrifice Social Europe in favour of a narrowly defined focus on economic competitiveness. The Lisbon Treaty will undermine progressive economic policy. It is time proponents of the Treaty engaged honestly with the Irish people on these economic arguments.” CRÍOCH