So, it’s looking likely that Ireland may once again have to take to the hustings over another EU treaty. We only have a vague idea as to what will be in the treaty, but there are a couple of things that occur to me, in no particular order.
1. This referendum will be decided by which of the two Irish psyches turns up on the day. If it’s the angry “f**k-you all and your banks” version, we will vote No out of sheer bloodymindedness. However, if it is the pragmatic what-works-for-us version, we will vote Yes.
2. The question of debt relief will be key to the debate. Germany sees a country that let its banks go hogwild and needed to be bailed out. Ireland sees that, but also sees German banks that went hogwild in Ireland too, and sees Irish taxpayers carrying the whole security of the European banking system on their back. That gap needs to be bridged, and Enda and Lucinda know it too.
3. The question of Sterling will be an issue. There is probably a substantial number of people in Ireland who could live with Ireland rejoining the Sterling zone, and some support in the UK for it, although of the here’s-a-sixpence-and-a-pat-on-the-head-me-lad tone about it (see here). However, the euro is still the overwhelming choice of national currency, and the carping and crowing from the Tory right and our unionist brethren up North would almost certainly turn the issue very sour. It would also put Sinn Fein in a spot: vote No so that we can have the British queen on our currency, because that’s what we are talking about. If we lock one-to-one to Sterling, it will become the de facto day-to-day currency even if we restore the punt. Shops will accept it and people will keep it in tin boxes “just in case”. Watch as the shinners struggle to deal with pro-Europeans who are pro-European because they are nationalists.
4. The ususal No campaign will be less effective than before, because this debate will essntially be about money, and we put money ahead of everything else. Dead Irish conscripts, aborted foetuses, the lot. We dive for the greasy till everytime. If the Brits had offered us hard cash and a referendum in 1916, we’d still be in the UK today.
5. Will there be a second chance? There will be the usual Bird O’Donnell crowd who will try to have it both ways, thinking that we can blackmail the rest of Europe by voting No in return for more dosh and a second vote. However, as this treaty looks like it is to be designed outside the existing European treaty, that means that it can still go ahead without Irish ratification. If the cost of saving the euro was Ireland’s default on its debts, and an end to the bailout, would the rest of Europe accept it? Quite possibly. Germany would have to bail out her banks. Who would bail out Ireland?
6. The world will be watching. It is possible that we could either be the only country to vote, or the last country to vote. Either way, the international narrative will be along the lines of “Will Ireland save/destroy Europe?”. We will be under huge pressure from the rest of the world. Don’t be surprised if President Obama makes remarks in the last week or two of the campaign, hoping that the Irish people will do “the right thing”, putting paid to the “sure the Yanks will have us” if we vote No argument.