Listening to Merkel and Sarkozy yesterday, it looks like a fiscal union is, if not on the cards, then certainly capable of appearing in the next pack. From an Irish perspective, this is going to mean that we actually have to do some serious thinking about what we want as a country.
See, the fact is, we’ve been very lazy about Europe. As long as EU money came our way we pretty much signed up to everything except taxes, aborting the unborn Irish in Ireland, and helping defend our way of life. But now we have to confront the reality of a higher standard of living through cheaper Eurobonds and German supervision, or a lower standard of living, exclusion from the bond markets for the short to medium term, but keeping total control over our very modest resources. What will we do?
The first thing we’ll do is get outraged, as we always do, and start throwing words like “democracy” around the place. Now, there is a democratic issue here. If we are creating a de facto US of E then we should have a democratically elected president running it, but that’s not what we mean. In Ireland, “democratic” means “other people should do what we want” and in these case it means that 80 million Germans should shut up and give 5 million Irish no strings attached money. Well guess what? 80 million Germans will almost certainly disagree with that, through their (democratic) ballots.
We need to be cool and calm about this. There is an argument that we would be better off staying out, keeping our fiscal sovereignty, and if we are willing to pay the price of having far less money to spend on public services, then it’s a strong one.
But one thing is certain. Indignant guff ain’t gonna buy us any chips at this table.