British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has threatened that a “Leave” vote on 23rd June would lead to a “profound economic shock” for NI, “an inevitable hardening of the border” and a” negative spill over effect in the Republic” All this is part of a “Project Fear” attempt to hoodwink Irish people in Northern Ireland and Britain into voting against their better interests in the upcoming referendum.
Project Fear is a tactic that has been used before. In 1999 there were the threats of job losses and economic ruin if the UK did not abolish the pound sterling and adopt the euro. In 2011 Germany’s Chancellor Merkel claimed that peace in Europe was under threat if Banks were not bailed out to protect the euro-currency.
Most objective studies on the costs and benefits of the UK leaving the EU suggest gains or losses between plus or minus 2% of GDP which in the long term scheme of things is not very much.
The EU is an inward-looking shrinking market mired in recession, with a dysfunctional currency and high unemployment. NI’s EU trade is largely accounted for by cross border trade with the Republic but also in trade with non-EU countries – some 43%.
Free trade will continue between Ireland and the UK under all realistic “Leave” scenarios, so there will be no customs posts on the North-South border within Ireland, no passport controls or anything like that just as there are no customs posts or passport controls between EU Member Sweden and non-EU Member Norway and EU Member France and non EU Member Switzerland. Such claims are simply scaremongering.
Northern Ireland economic future depends upon the ability of businesses to trade globally, rather than regionally and a “Leave” vote has the potential to open the door for local companies to take a global approach. Sensible economic strategy acknowledges that economic success is dependent upon growing exports and diversifying into new markets.
Leaving the EU offers the potential to cut red tape for Northern Ireland’s businesses and allows policy makers greater freedom to address problems around the economy.
EU state aid regulations hamper any government efforts to intervene where there are threats to jobs and businesses, for example closures at Michelin and JTI and job losses at Bombardier.
During the last UK Parliament 3,580 regulations and directives were passed by the EU that had a direct effect on UK businesses. This is particularly burdensome for SME’s. SME’s contribute some 75% of private sector turnover and over 75% of private sector employment in Northern Ireland.
If Chancellor Osborne has his way, the job-destroying Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is inevitable. This is being negotiated by the EU on behalf of its 28 Member States, with its dangerous Private Investor-State Settlement Tribunals and scheme of “permanent regulatory cooperation” between the EU and USA. The Big Business aim of TTIP is to weaken the capacity of democratic states to regulate capital on social or economic grounds.
So the choice is between an EU project that progressively shifts a wide range of government functions to the supranational level where the bureaucrats of the EU Commission have a monopoly of legislative initiative and primarily serve the interest of transnational EU and American Big Business; or, the restoration of the power to democratically elected Parliaments and Governments to make their own laws, negotiate their own trade agreements and impose social controls on capital in the interests of the common good.