The options facing the Irish electorate in next Thursday’s referendum on the Fiscal Treaty are indeed stark.
Whatever the outcome, we are still facing years of austerity. The degree of austerity may depend on Thursday’s outcome . Voting Yes is only one facet of endorsing a solution, which some would argue is temporary and flawed, to the complex and gargantuan Euro crisis. Stability and certainty are elusive notions these days, and may become even more intangible in the near future.
Europe is at the centre of a financial catacylism in which the Greek drama is but one component. The issue of Spanish banks and Italian debt are hardly going away.
The Government’s central argument in favour of a Yes vote is that it is a means to ensure we secure access to the European Stability Mechanism, the new bailout fund, which we may need to access after the current rescue package runs out after 2013.
This represents a volte face from the early protestations and denials that a second bailout would be needed. However, the “insurance policy” of ESM access is probably what will be required in the near future.
Voting No has its appeal in a protest against a system which is at times grossly unfair. The bank debt is a huge, unfair and onerous burden, many of the self same perpetuators of the crash are still at large, living lavish lifestyles in the continued full glare of publicity.
However, Thursday’s vote must be placed in a broader context. A No vote will limit our options, at a time when we can ill afford to do so. The No campaign argues that future funding won’t be denied us, because to do so would mean destroying the Euro outright.
Perhaps, but this amounts to a huge gamble, and maybe making one assumption too many . Yes indeed future funding might be made available, but at what price. It may be made available with a whole new string of conditions, which will exacerbate the austerity measures we already have. A No vote in this instance might weaken and undermine what little negotiating advantage we have. Europe has changed, and is changing, during the course of this crisis, and to think that we will be granted privilieged position any longer is wrong.
Austerity may or may not be working, but where are the credible policy alternatives. How to we alternatively fund ourselves and plug the budget deficit. We need growth and stimulus, but we need credible polices in achieving these, and the No campaign has not offered much, beyond ideology.
Yes, we do need a more robust engagement with Europe. Being the best in the class has not yielded us much results so far. We need to be cut some slack in relation to debt. Our problems are manifold, as last week’s figures on mortgage arrears and debt clearly demonstrates.
However, now is not the time to snub or pick a fight with Europe. Our membership of the EU has been hugely progressive and beneficial to us in areas including social legislation, infrastructure and agriculture.
The current morass runs very deep and a solutioin may still be some way off, and this treaty may be only a step on the road to an ultimate solution.
However, giving two fingers to the current arduous process is no solution. A Yes vote at least allows us some leverage, which will be needed in the months and years ahead