Some time ago there was a very interesting TV talk show, made in conjunction with RTE & UTV, and filmed and broadcast simultaneously in Dublin & Belfast.
Naturally this cross border programme was about …. well, the border actually. It was a discussion on whether Northern Ireland should simply throw in its lot with the Republic and become a part of a thirty-two county State. Predictably enough, the Unionists were frosty about the idea but even some Nationalists up north were not too sure either. In Dublin however, a good natured audience voted on the issue and the result was a landslide in favour of unification.
In general, no big surprises either side. Then a senior Irish civil servant on the Dublin panel was asked if the Republic could actually afford reunification and without hesitation, he answered, “Certainly not!” A nervous buzz went around the studio as the presenter pressed the man on this. I won’t go into all of it but in a nutshell, the cost of taking Northern Ireland into this Republic would entail closing all social services such as the welfare and supports for the poor. The health service, such as it is, would have to lose 75% of its budget, we could afford just a single University for the whole country, and we could not have an army etc etc ……
In other words, total collapse. In the light of this man’s insights, the audience were asked to vote again on unification, this time with the added proviso, ‘If we had to pay for it ourselves.” Guess what? A complete reversal of the earlier vote. “Fuck the North if it costs me a penny,” seemed to be the consensus, ‘let the ‘Sammies’ have it.’ It says a lot about our nationalist credentials in this new century, doesn’t it?
The above came to mind when I read this headline over breakfast today saying, “State finances take hit after record €1bn payment to EU budget.” You see, with the Brits, ‘doing one,’ as it were, the Commission says there is a huge contribution gap in EU funding. The Irish State takes in about €50bn annually so our payment to the EU amounts to 2% of that. I do not know if all the other member States pay 2% of their annual take to continue to be members but as we learned in our cross border debate above, if Paddy has to pay too much for it, he doesn’t want it, no matter what ‘IT’ is.
According to the article, “The Dutch have already led the charge for states unwilling to step into the Brexit breach. A smaller EU should have a smaller budget, the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.” You’d have to say the lad Mark has a point, except of course if what the ‘Brexiteers’ have been saying all along is true – that the Brits have been paying in way over any benefit they receive in return. Brussels has on many occasions flatly denied this but if they’re right, why will it take more to run the EU post-Britain?
Apparently, the big budget item each year for the EU is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The EU Commissioner for Agriculure is none other than our own, “Philly The-Big-Bully-Boy Hogan,” from the rich farmland lands of Co. Kilkenny. Anyone who tries to fuck with the CAP is going to looking up at a cross-faced Big Phil bearing down on them. He is backed by France of course but the Dutch are pretty able scrappers too and they are getting some support. To weasel their way out of a confrontation though, the unelected Commission have turned their bile on the ex-commies of Poland and Hungary with a view to slicing their supports, thus saving a few bob for the people who really matter in the EU, the elites.
So when the UK is finally out of the EU and full reality of what that entails financially for Europe, comes home to roost, it will be interesting to see the reactions of the various vested interests remaining. In Ireland next year if that €1bn were to become €2bn, a not-so-muted debate might bubble up. However, in couple of years time if it becomes €4bn or even €8bn, (God forbid!), then you can be sure that Paddy will do a runner too. Maybe the continent won’t give a shit if we do, but to my mind, we need to prepare for both contingencies. We already have the Plan-A of remaining inside the EU but Govt. planners should also be quietly working on a viable Plan-B that sees us cutting our losses and pursuing different goals elsewhere if we need to if it is in our national interests to do so. After all, everyone else is looking after their national interests.
Meanwhile all we can say is that we do indeed live in ‘interesting’ times!