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Lisbon is not good for the economy – Ó Snodaigh

23 September, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

The question before us tonight is whether or not the Lisbon Treaty is good for the Irish economy.

Before I outline why Sinn Féin believes that the Treaty is a bad deal for the Irish economy I want to address some of the arguments presented to us by Fianna Fáil and their supporters on the yes side.

To date the yes campaign has been based on two arguments.

Firstly we are told that that voting no would lead to loss of investment, jobs and in the words of Ireland for Europe, economic ruin.

Secondly we are told of all the positive benefits of existing EU membership and existing EU Treaty provisions.

Of course we are not debating our membership of the EU or the impact of previous Treaties on Ireland. We are debating the Lisbon Treaty. To date the yes side has offered no arguments as to how this Treaty if ratified will positively impact on the economy. Indeed it appears as if Fianna Fáil and their supporters in Fine Gael and Labour appear willing to talk about anything other than the Treaty itself.

As referendum day approaches the yes side’s claims on investment and jobs become more outlandish.

Of course the truth is very different.

In July of this year IDA CEO Barry O'Leary said: ‘It should be noted that 2008 saw a 14 per cent increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) on the previous year bringing the total number of FDI investments in 2008 to 130.’

Saying no to Lisbon in 2008 had no impact whatsoever on inward investment. The same will be true if we rejected the Treaty on October 2nd.

Speaking to the Oireachtas sub-committee on the Future of Europe on 21 October 2008 Paul Rellis, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland said, ‘I have not seen any material impact on jobs, market access or sales in recent months attributable to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty’.

Saying no to Lisbon in 2008 had no impact whatsoever on jobs. The same will be true if we rejected the Treaty on October 2nd.

But don’t believe me. Listen to one of the most respected US financial newspapers. The Wall Street Journal in an editorial published on September 16th described the Irish government’s claims on jobs and investment as “patent absurdities”. They accused Brian Lenihan of “peddling phantom terrors to scare the Irish people into voting yes” and described the government “chief strategy” in the campaign as consisting of “preying on fears.” The editorial went on to state clearly that US investors were smart enough to know the difference between rejecting an EU Treaty and withdrawing from the EU and that US investors would not interpret a second No vote as any kind of withdrawal from the EU.

Despite all of this Brian Cowen keeps telling us that ‘were stronger in Europe’ and that we will loose jobs and investment if we vote no on October 2nd. Enda Kenny tells us that saying yes to Lisbon means saying ‘Yes to Jobs’.

But voters need to ask themselves whether these political leaders are really in a position to offer advice on job creation. Brian Cowen has presided over the loss of 200,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Enda Kenny proposed the sacking of 14,000 public sector workers in Fine Gael’s April pre budget submission.

It was Brian Cowen as Finance Minister who initiated the policies that led to the property bubble, the banking crisis, the collapse in tax revenues and the fall in Irish competitiveness. As a consequence thousands of Irish families now live in negative equity, have lost their jobs and are being driven into poverty. Meanwhile banks and developers are bailed out to the tune of over €50 billion, with the taxpayer shouldering the risk.

So long as Brian Cowen remains in charge jobs will continue to be lost and competitiveness will continue to decline. And if you think he’s bad, just wait till Enda Kenny is Taoiseach.

And remember the Lisbon Treaty was negotiated by Fianna Fáil. It is their Treaty just as much as NAMA is their response to the banking crisis and savage cuts to vital public services is their response to the deficit in our public finances.

It is these same policies, promoted and implemented by Fianna Fáil over the last two decades, that underlie the current economic crisis at home and across Europe. And these same failed and discredited right wing economic policies are contained in the Lisbon Treaty.

For the past 20 years the EU has been pushing a right wing economic agenda, promoting deregulation and liberalisation irrespective of its social impact. Existing EU rules attempt to limit member states spending and place restrictions on government support for failing companies. The EU aggressively promotes competition, in all areas of the economy, including public services. All of this weakens the ability of the state to manage the economy and leads to privatisation and inequality.

The Lisbon Treaty contains seven important articles and a protocol that together will further accelerate the EUs right wing neo-liberal economic agenda.

Article’s 10A, 16, 2B and 188C give the European Commission significant powers over the negotiation and conclusion of international trade agreements. This will have a liberalising impact on agriculture and services, including health & education. In turn this will result in lower incomes for farming communities and increased privatisation of public services.

Article 57 limits the ability of the EU to reverse recent liberalising policies of movement of capital to and from non-EU countries. At a time when the public is calling for greater regulation of international banking and finance such a restriction be utter madness.

Article 115A strengthens the powers of the Commission to police what they call ‘excessive budget defecits’ by member states giving it increased powers to limit government deficits to 3% of GDP.

Article 176A sets out the EUs new energy policy and explicitly places this in the context of the ‘market’ where the rules of competition and restrictions on state apply.

And finally the Protocol on the Internal Market provides a general rule on 'distortions to competition'. This is important in cases where say the rights of workers clash with the ‘rights’ of business. The Protocol will allow the Commission and Court of Justice to side with companies over workers every time pushing down wages and undermining collectively agreed terms and conditions.

So to return to our central question, is the Lisbon Treaty good for the Irish economy. The answer is a resounding no. It is an out of date Treaty, containing discredited economic policies none of which allow Ireland or the EU to face the very serious economic challenges of our times.

When listening to the Government on Lisbon voters need to constantly ask themselves, if they got it so wrong on NAMA, if they got it so wrong on employment, how can they be trusted on Lisbon.

On October 2nd vote for a better deal for the Irish and European economy by voting No to Lisbon.

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