November 22, 2012

Goodbye to all that: just what would we do if UK left EU?

Posted in Irish Independent · 207 comments ·

What would we do if, or possibly when, Britain leaves the EU? In recent months the chances of Britain actually doing so have risen sharply. Diplomatically, it would still be a big move for Whitehall, but with 56% of British people wanting to leave the EU outright, the next few years could be increasingly fraught for Britain and the EU.

And it is not just the British becoming increasingly disillusioned with the EU; the EU are becoming noticeably less inclined to understand the British position on many issues.

Tomorrow, the British will be cold-shouldered at an EU summit once again. The view from the continent seems to be that the British are a pain. If they left the EU, the EU could be just fine without them.

Let’s think about the latest row the Brits are having with the EU. The British want to freeze the EU budget, or at least their contribution. In contrast, the EU institutions, backed by the politicians of other EU member states, want a 5% increase in the EU’s institutions’ budget.

So what the Brits are actually looking for is austerity for the EU itself. What’s so wrong with this? After all isn’t the EU the main cheerleader for austerity as a policy? What is good for the goose is clearly not so good for the gander.

It seems like a reasonable position to take and one in which it is supported by Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. However, while the others play politics behind closed doors, David Cameron is constantly under pressure from the Eurosceptics in the Tories to dig his heels in to satisfy public opinion.

Anyone who has ever lived in the UK knows that a referendum on British membership of the EU would be won handsomely by the No side and this is, I suspect, what Cameron wants to avoid, particularly as he is trying to win an independence referendum in the more traditionally pro-EU Scotland.

In Ireland, getting away from the influence of London was the clear driver of our EEC policy in the 1970s when London was seen as still dominating our small republic. But now that we have been freed of this insecurity, is it still clever to think that a European Union without Britain would be in our best interests?

I sense the anti-British feeling or insecurity with respect to Britain has diminished hugely in this country since the 1970s. For most people, the UK is a good neighbour. It is a neighbour with whom we share so much that it would be almost inconceivable to think of daily life without Britain, from the perspective of TV, newspapers, popular culture and sport.

For Ireland, there appears to be a tendency amongst the political classes to behave as if Britain doesn’t exist at all. Despite the absolute centrality of Britain in our economic affairs, for example, one gets the impression that when senior officials from the Department of Finance look out east they see all the way directly to Holland as if the big island called Britain isn’t there at all.

Yet, if we look at patterns of trade, 52pc of all our EU imports come from Britain. It is by far and away the biggest market for our biggest employing indigenous sectors, agriculture and tourism. British banks are exposed hugely in Ireland, having lent some €60bn here in the boom. It came as a surprise to many of us to hear the British Chancellor of the Exchequer state that Britain exported more to Ireland than it did to India, China, Russia and Brazil combined.

It is not just trade that binds us together; the demographic flows between the countries are extraordinary when seen in the context of two separate jurisdictions. One of the most striking legacies of this intertwining is the fact that there are more British people today with one Irish grandparent than there are Irish people with Irish grandparents. In the past few years we have seen the pattern continue. In our boom, the biggest ethnic minority in Ireland was the English. Since the crash the main destination for Irish people emigrating is still Britain, and London in particular.

So what might happen if Britain were to leave the EU? The most significant fact, which is not fully appreciated, is that the EU would suffer an enormous loss of status. There seems to be a view that the EU wouldn’t suffer, but Britain would suffer a slump in prestige and position. It is not so clear this would be the case. The EU without a major country like the UK would be diminished on the world stage. It’s northern European, free-trading character would also be diminished, as would its budget.

For Ireland, it would mean being part of an enterprise where of the two other countries we joined with in 1973, one isn’t in the euro (Denmark) and one isn’t in the EU (Britain). Far more importantly, it would mean our two major trading partners, the US and the UK, would not be in the same orbit politically and we would be tied to a project which we would be entirely unsuited to economically. Ireland would be a total outlier in terms of economic integration, while culturally we would be in a club with which we share practically nothing.

These are big issues. Understandably, we would want to row our own boat independent of London, but equally we should at least be sure which way the current is going and be sure it is bringing us in the appropriate direction.

David McWilliams’ new book ‘The Good Room’ is out now.

  1. Debth De Leveller

    On Debt the never ending eroding denial in our national consciousness there is more debt after debth .

    There are in many cases of paid up house loans on principle homes whoes security was given to a bank and where the same bank again lends further to either of or both the spouses on another related matter with a separate security pledged only and where that security implodes , the same said bank then has a right to sell the original home even though the original loan is fully paid up irrespective of whether one or both spouses borrowed on the second loan .

    This is a silent Hidden Bomb throughout all of Ireland and it is wise for everyone NOW to seek a solicitors letter that your home deeds are free of bank pledges and that they hold the title deeds .

    Also :

    Parents Guarantees can be called upon whether their children have been made bankrupt or not .

    • bonbon

      It would be very helpful to expand on those “securities”, what owns them, how they are traded, and the timing.

    • New Word ( for dictionary )


      When a security on a principle home is called in by the bank after it has been paid up in full and to be used to make up for the shortfall of any further securities given by both or either spouses on a separate business transaction where that security has imploded below the value of the new amount borrowed .

      Lessons :

      Do not put all your eggs in one basket ie never borrow business loans from the same bank that originally gave you the original home loan .

      Remove the security from the bank immediately after it has been paid up in full .

      • There are many thousands of spouses all over the country who have never signed over any consent for additional business loans taken out by their spouses or do they have knowledge of such loans . Despite that the bank can call in the security of the title of the home for this business loan and enforce a sale if necessary without the consent of the other spouse. The bank claims this because the security was never withdrawn from the bank in the first place after the home loan was paid up in full .

  2. bonbon

    Splitting from the EU, breaking up the Euro are all issues, but the core issue of the highest importance is splitting the banks :


    Nov. 25 (LPAC)–There is growing support for the imposition of complete bank separation among top levels of finance in the UK, that is, a new Glass Steagall-style split between merchant and retail banks, to the point that it is becoming “conventional wisdom,” writes the Sunday Telegraph’s banking columnist Liam Halligan. “What should definitely depress us–and even make us angry,” Halligan continues, “is that rapacious banks are assisted in their defence of the indefensible by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the leading candidates to become the next Governor of the Bank of England.”
    Halligan goes on to make the case for Glass Steagall, quoting from some of its numerous supporters in England, such as Sir Peter Hambro, yet “the UK is about to sleep walk towards another devastating banking collapse in a few years time.”
    Why is this the case? Because Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is trying to force the Parliament to ram through the reforms proposed by the Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers. Vickers was among those who gave testimony to a Parliamentary commission, chaired by Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, this past week, on behalf of his “ring fencing” proposal. Deputy Bank of England Governor Paul Tucker, among those favored to replace current Bank Governor Mervyn King, agreed with Vickers, saying that the government should implement the “ring fence” without delay. Ring fencing, separating banking and speculation but keeping them under one roof, is not Glass-Steagall, as King himself warned the commission. He said there was a “clear risk” that the bankers would be able to “pull the wool” over the eyes of the watchdogs. Halligan documents that the real concern of Osborne, Vickers, and Tucker is to keep the big banks together.
    “Tyrie and his colleagues should recommend, loud and clear, with a welter of evidence and expert opinion behind them, that the Vickers measures don’t go nearly far enough,” Halligan concludes.

  3. NeilSovIndoUK

    As usual Mr. McWilliams doesn’t or won’t talk about the fact that the EU is in its own legal framework operating as a criminal entity.

    Why? Simply due to the FACT that they have failed to have their accounts audited and cleared as honest by THEIR OWN AUDITORS!

    It is therefore a criminal offence for any government to give money to this organisation which is responsible for the collapse of European economies across the board and all austerity measures being imposed in complete partnership with the criminal IMF.

    WAKE UP!

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