In a year of confounded expectations, another allegedly unthinkable idea, Eirexit, is gaining traction according to the Irish Times.
Until very recently, the very notion of Ireland leaving the EU was so outlandish and marginal that it did not feature in any public discourse in a meaningful way.
But it has now been thrust more into the limelight by a combination of Brexit, the Apple case, fears of an EU stealth attack on Ireland’s most sacred cow, corporation tax; and now, the election of Trump.
Certainly, Eirexit has gained some momentum of late. There is a small but growing band of public figures questioning the basis of Irish EU membership. Some are opposed to any notion of a federal Europe or EU superstate.
Others think Eirexit might turn out to be inevitable if circumstances change. And the public might be with them on this one more than politicians think.
Over the course of 55 years, one person has been almost a voice in the wilderness in his consistent opposition to the EU.
In October 1961, Anthony Coughlan returned to Ireland to lecture at Trinity College Dublin.
A month later he was one of seven people – along with Noël Browne and future Labour TD Barry Desmond – who signed a letter to The Irish Times opposing Ireland’s application to join the European Economic Community. The idea was being mooted in political circles at the time.
“Our supreme folly is having joined the eurozone without the UK doing it,” he said. “It was lunacy for us to join. I cannot see us staying in the EU if the UK leaves,” says Couglan.
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy holds the same view. It’s not a “foreground” issue but if a referendum were held, they would support a Leave vote.
“The EU has championed austerity and neoliberal policies, and right-wing governments who won’t deliver for ordinary people.”
Sinn Féin’s analysis of the shortfalls of the EU would not differ too much from Murphy’s. MEP Matt Carthy lists its treatment of peripheral countries such as Greece, the TTIP trade deal, and what he calls its anti-democratic institutions.
However, the party wants Ireland to stay in the EU. “Our view is the EU needs fundamental reform rather than an exit,” says Carthy.
Those on the right are suspicious of what they see as a creeping move towards a superstate and the repercussions this might have for Ireland’s sovereignty.
Former Progressive Democrats leader, Senator Michael McDowell is a sceptic but one who wants to remain in the EU.
He said he believes in a confederal EU, not a federal one and is completely opposed to an EU superstate.
His former adviser Cormac Lucey, a Sunday Times columnist, has written that Eirexit is an option that ought to be considered, also arguing that the bulk of Ireland’s trade is with the English-speaking world and not the EU.
Micro parties such as Direct Democracy Ireland, and other splinter groups, have set up social media platforms calling for an Eirexit.
Renua councillor Keith Redmond, a member of the right-leaning think-tank Hibernia Forum, says if the EU presses ahead with any plans for a superstate, or introduces customs tariffs on UK trade, then he will support Eirexit.
Coughlan has remained consistent over a lifetime, still holding to the view the EU has not really benefited Ireland as a whole, but rather a few bigger players.
He recalls Charles de Gaulle’s famous remark: “Europe is France and Germany; the rest is just the trimmings.”
Unthinkable or Very Thinkable?
I fail to see what is so unthinkable about an Irish exit. In fact, it was the first thing that came to my mind after the Brexit vote.
The Irish Times noted the rising support for Eirexit from various fringe groups and asked “Are these a collection of disparate and peripheral voices, or do they reflect a population far less enamoured of Brussels than its political leaders?”
It’s safe to say we have an answer already. Look at Brexit. The left was supposed to vote vote overwhelmingly “Remain”, instead, only the big liberal cities did.
Look at the US. Working class people, men and women voted hugely for Trump.
MEP Matt Carthy says “Our priority is fundamentally to get people of the North to stay in the EU. We cannot countenance a situation where one part of the island is operating within EU and the other is outside.”
What a hoot. Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, is not going to stay in the EU.
Thus, if Carthy really “cannot countenance a situation where one part of the island is operating within EU and the other is outside,” he is effectively saying Eirexit is on the way.
The EU’s Brexit reaction was punishment, threats, and a call for even “more Europe”.
The nannycrats were furious when the UK responded by cutting corporate income taxes. It wants and will seek to force Ireland to comply.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s key take-away from Brexit was a seriously misguided call for “more Europe”, complete with its own army. Jucker’s undeniable goal is to create a European superstate.
What about trade? Who has the leverage?
Ireland’s Top Export Partners
- United States ($28.5B)
- United Kingdom ($19.2B)
- Belgium-Luxembourg ($18.2B)
- Germany ($10.8B)
- France ($7.98B)
Ireland’s Top Import Partners
- United Kingdom ($24.3B)
- United States ($7.45B)
- Germany ($6.35B)
- China ($4.15B)
- Netherlands ($4.14B)
The above numbers from MIT.EDU Ireland Profile.
An export-import impact shows Ireland may have more to lose in exports, but it has a wild-card: the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Irish bureaucrats may bury their heads and ignore those questions, but the average guy on the streets of Ireland will easily spot the answers.
Eirexit is just a matter of time.