BREXIT –What about IREXIT ?

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European Union flag

This week we are privileged to have a guest blogger with us!

Roger Hobkinson, our favourite Londoner heads up Destination Consulting services with Colliers in Ireland. He was surprised that there was very little talk about our role in Europe in the run up to the General Election – are we too inward thinking?

Roger talks a lot of sense so I asked him to capture his thoughts in a blog post:

Blog post by Roger Hobkinson

This is going  to be provocative.  Ireland is sleepwalking into a European Super State, a sort of dysfunctional capitalist Soviet Union. As our exam papers used to say – let’s discuss.

Last Friday (26th Feb, 2016) marked the general election for the 32nd Dáil Éireann.  As a Londoner, Englishman and Brit who has lived in Ireland for nearly seven “interesting” years I am excited and honoured to be voting in my first Irish General Election, especially given the year this election falls in.

However I am feeling a little bemused as amongst all the scrapping and political point scoring in GE16, over admittedly very important every day issues for people –  water charges, hospital trolleys, jobs, housing etc – there appears to be no debate at all about Europe and Ireland’s place in it – zip, zero, nothing, rein, nichts, nada, faic/rud !!!

This at a time of massive challenge, change and catastrophe across Europe.  In the years following the financial and economic meltdown in Ireland, the Euro, that politically driven project that played a none too small part in creating the darkness that fell over the country, there is sure to be even more power handed over from Eurozone “countries” to Brussels and Frankfurt.  Are Irish people comfortable with that?

I’m feeling even more bemused as it’s the centenary of the Easter Rising the events that led to Ireland’s Independence from Britain and there has been mass coverage and debate about Brexit but no comment from the parties and/or  the Irish people on Ireland’s European relationship.  So you/(we!) are celebrating/commemorating the birth of the Irish Republic, then worry so much about what Britain may or may not do BUT not debating what is the best or desired relationship with the EU for Ireland and Irish people. This strikes me as crazy.

So if this Brit raises my eyebrows in a puzzled manner and a bit of gnashing of teeth it is because I care for my new home, Ireland. It does appear the Irish establishment wants to be part of a European super state and hand over yet more sovereignty, fiscal and political powers in Brussels, Frankfurt and let’s be honest Berlin in the coming years.

The Good stuff

Now I happen to think the “European Economic Community, then European Union” has on the whole been brilliant for the people of Europe.

The best thing is that it has brought people together and of course stopped Germany and France (and other countries) fighting each other, its developed trade, jobs, opportunities, understanding (sort of), improved standards (even if some countries play more by the rule book than others) and many other things.  However I believe it is now going too far.

Yes I want to be part of a European Union, understanding that some powers need to be given up for a “common European good” to tackle geo-politics, environment, crime, migration, social and economic mega trends that shape all our lives.  However I absolutely do not want Britain to be consumed into a European Super State.

So David Cameron’s negotiations struck me as maybe not a huge amount of detailed result but the fact that the UK has apparently secured the opt out of “ever closer union”.  That’s the thing. That’s the core principle to my mind. Well played Dave!

Where we have all come from to help us understand where we are going..

Lots of Brits are portrayed as arrogant, imperialist etc etc (sigh, sigh) in their belief that actually Europe is not for me.  Let’s think about where different countries came from; Spain, Portugal and Greece were fascist dictatorships within the last forty  years, Italy slightly further back and only a nation state since the middle of the 19th century.

Eastern Europe and the Baltic states were part of the communist bloc, downtrodden by Soviet communism. France was a great, proud, strong and major power with a big colonial past who kept on fighting with its neighbour. That neighbour Germany,  became a nation state in the second half of the 19thcentury. It then tried to rule Europe twice in under 30 years.  Since 1945 Germany has been incredibly successful (what was that about Germany’s debts written off – oh the irony).

Then we come to us here in Ireland. We know where Ireland came from don’t we!! Europe has helped Ireland find its own place and assert itself in Europe and the world.

So all these countries have understandable and different reasons for finding a home in the EU club.

Then we have Scandinavian countries, one bordered by Russia (enough said), and the sexy sensible Swedes and the delightful Danes, who clearly like the EU but are perhaps a little distant from it.

Then we have the UK. Britain might not be perfect but as London 2012 showcased it is one of the worlds’ most open, tolerant and dynamic countries with probably the worlds’ capital at this point in time in London. It’s the fastest growing of the big European economies, the 4th biggest economy in the world, of course it will be overtaken by the likes of Brazil, India and Mexico as they get their acts together, but it will remain one of the strongest economies in the world.

Britain also that has huge soft power. Plus the UK is forecast to be the most populous European country by the 2030’s  at the same time that much of continental Europe has a decreasing population and the majority of Eurozone countries  have moribund economies. So if Britain votes to leave, Germans will not want to sell cars, Italians clothes and French wine to the UK ??!!!

Britain is also quite an old nation state, trading (global), strong links with the commonwealth from its colonial past,  a long established legal system and a political system that is not perfect, and in need of modernisation – it generally works well.  If I had a Euro for every time I’ve heard an Irish person in the last few years say “so and so politician or business person has got away with it again” (and we keep voting for them even worse!) – if that was in the UK or US they would be in front of investigative political, police and judiciary powers.  So in legal, political and trading terms the UK does lots and has lots of experience as to what works for it.

So maybe that pushes out an alternative narrative as to why Britons don’t want to be consumed into “ever closer union”?

Game over?

With my British head on I believe Britain should stay in the EU – on balance it will be better off in rather than out. I also want Great Britain to remain England, Scotland and Wales.  If Scotland votes massively to stay in and England votes to leave, I can’t argue with the Scots for wanting another referendum.  Although the irony of course is that they would almost certainly have less “power” in the emerging European Super State than as part of an increasingly “federal” UK.  Plus Britain “in” I think will be better for Ireland.

So hopefully post June 23, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic will still be in the EU and maybe more importantly for some still in Euro 2016 !!!

Roger HobkinsonRoger Hobkinson – Colliers International

Thank you Roger for the incredible insights and as always, many words of wisdom!

Follow Roger on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to “BREXIT –What about IREXIT ?”

  1. Nigel O'Farage Says:

    If there is a vote to leave the European Union. I would like to make one strong point.A leave vote will be possibly be our only chance to take back our country.Any country left in after voting to remain,will be enslaved by the EU forever.I don’t care what they have done for Ireland,good or bad,its in the past. I want my children and all our child to have a real future.The wealth is not in the EU,it is in world trade.The UK will mind us anyway.We will always be punching above our weight anyway. Imagine our destiny in our own hands.

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