Tuesday, 2 September 2003

Don't throw away freedom to a Euro-superstate

So here they come, those bits of paper adorned with fictional bridges (what a splendid reminder of the roads and bridges from nowhere to nowhere on which EU taxpayers’ money is so shamefully and shamelessly wasted). You’d better not try to forge them, for that would be a federal offence, and come 2004 the eurocops will come and get you, literally, and there would be nothing the Irish courts could do to protect you: no habeas corpus, no presumption of innocence, no evidence required before you are whisked off to the Continent for unlimited “investigative detention”, no trial by jury.

The euro is a part of the design to extinguish freedom in a European empire. The introduction of euro notes and coins has practically no economic significance. But its psychological importance will be considerable. It will bring home to the Irish people that the Rubicon was crossed nine years ago when they were led blindfold into the Maastricht referendum trap, beguiled by the Yes campaign’s siren song of “six billion pounds”. Ireland really did sell its birthright for a mess of pottage. It sold itself into euro-slavery that day. Now the euro notes, tokens of bondage, are here.

It’s ironic that this final humiliation should come just a few days after Argentina was reduced to riots, 27 deaths, debt default and a state of siege. What Argentina is suffering now, Ireland will very likely suffer over the next two or three years. Argentina in effect did in 1991 what Ireland has done. It gave up an independent currency (admittedly a hyperinflationary one, an excuse that the Irish government did not have), locking the peso one-to-one with the dollar.

In the early years of this regime, the dollar was falling, making Argentina’s exports competitive, and US interest rates were low, boosting Argentine spending. This created several years of boom and allowed the country’s public debt to fall to levels lower than, for instance, Ireland’s.

But when the dollar turned around from 1995 onwards as the US began strong, technology-driven growth, the Argentine economy, which had practically nothing in common with the US, began to suffer horribly. Three-and-a-half years of recession and ballooning debt preceded financial collapse, social distress and political upheaval. Why could Argentina not simply devalue its currency, as Ireland did so successfully in 1993? Because most Argentine firms and families had taken out loans in dollars. Devaluing the peso would make it much harder for them to repay those loans, bankrupting many.

From January 1st, 2002, even the blindest will be able to see that Ireland has no way out.

Because its economy behaves so differently from the continental economies, sharing a currency and monetary policy with them will, after creating an uncontrollable boom and rising inflation over the past few years, now bring bust, rising unemployment, deflation, falling house prices and bankruptcy. Even the Commission has just admitted this in its Annual Economic Review.

But even if the lawyers were to say that Ireland could leave the single currency and allow a new Irish pound to depreciate, everyone’s debts would be in euros. Monetary union in Europe makes potential Argentinas of all the small eurozone countries; those that, unlike Germany and France, do not have the political clout to get the ECB to set monetary policy for their benefit. Romano Prodi spilt the beans a couple of weeks ago: the euro would create a crisis that would allow the EU to grab a whole set of economic policy weapons that it has so far been politically unacceptable to advocate.

Forget about the Irish people’s rejection of Nice: the EU behaves as though that treaty were ratified. After all, it is only Ireland that has said No, and Ireland can be disregarded. And in any case the 2004 treaty will simply leapfrog Nice. It will create a European superstate. That superstate of course, will not be a federation. Blair, France and, though not openly, Germany all favour an intergovernmental political union.

In such a union policies are decided for the whole of the EU by the big three, with a locally-powerful vassal role as local colonial administrators for compliant politicians from the small countries and no place for democracy anywhere.

There is nothing new in this.

The autocratic Charles de Gaulle proposed it in the early 1960s. Germany accepted it; so – enthusiastically – did Macmillan, who had just applied for membership of “Europe” as, he thought, the only way of recovering the privileges of Great Power status for the members of his class. But the Netherlands vetoed the plan, knowing that an intergovernmental union would mean that the country would again be bossed around by the big boys. At that time, the Dutch government was run by people who remembered what it was like to have your country ruled by outsiders.

Just think, the decisions on EU arrest warrants will mean that by 2004 Irish citizens will be subject to the laws of every other EU country (and that could include several “former” communist regimes), laws that their own parliament had no hand in making.

Irish freedom was hard-won. It has lasted only 80 years. It is now being thrown away, in defiance of the will of the people expressed in the Nice referendum, so that politicians and bureaucrats can have a share, however tiny, in the intoxicating power of empire.

Bernard Connolly

Bernard Connolly is a former senior official in the EU Commission and author of The Rotten Heart of Europe which argued against the euro project.