Tuesday 25 October 2016

Niamh Horan: A 'shackled' Paddy who rolls over is unfit to mock Brexit

We should look at our ties with the EU instead of sneering at the Brits who had the balls to leave, writes Niamh Horan

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

HECKLED: UKIP leader Nigel Farage with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
HECKLED: UKIP leader Nigel Farage with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Is anyone else as perplexed as I am at Ireland's reaction to Brexit?

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As news broke of the historic vote, accusations of ignorance and short-sightedness were dished out over pints and lunch.

For once, from an economic standpoint, Paddy felt he had the chance to look down on his unruly neighbour for daring to disobey the establishment.

You'd wonder why.

It's less than four years since the ECB left us on our knees, blocking the government from burning bondholders and threatening to unleash financial Armageddon unless we met their demands.

Instead of facing down the threats, our politicians rolled over like a pair of Maltese puppies, as their European masters tickled their tummies, telling them to scurry home and inform us of their agreement to pay 42pc of the total cost of the European banking crisis.

And now - shackled to Europe - we somehow think we are in any position to mock Britain's audacious strike for independence?

We point to their anger as an ill-judged reason to leave the federal super state, while believing we are better for staying out of fear.

We forget we existed before. We ignore the fact that most of the developed world is not in the EU - and that most of these countries are doing better economically than most of the EU.

We write off the British as bigoted for raising concerns about Angela Merkel's "open door" policy, while assuming superiority as we allow foreign nationals work here on minimum wages as slave au pairs, cleaners and baristas.

We laugh at the possibility of Britain being ruled by Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, as if their Oxford and Cambridge-educated politicians are somehow less than our teachers-turned-politicians who have given their power to the German Chancellor.

We point to the falling sterling, without allowing for the fact that it will bounce back.

And when it does, the British will have the ability to control interest rates: a power we desperately needed before the crash to let air escape from our housing bubble.

I wonder how many of our average taxpayers who argued last week to cling to the 12 gold stars could name the President of Europe - or even say how many there are? There are five before you Google it. Or explain the difference between the European Council, the Council of the European Union and the Council of Europe?

The vast majority of us aren't confident enough in ourselves to hold up our hands and admit we don't understand the squads of committees and presidents and commissioners for fear of looking stupid.

When in reality the only stupidity to be fearful of is millions of people giving a massive amount of power to people they don't know, to participate in a structure they can't understand in order to pass laws they have never debated.

If there was ever a scene that should set alarm bells ringing it is the footage of Nigel Farage returning to the European parliament with the voice of 17.5m voters behind him and 53.3pc of the vote in his back pocket only to be jeered and heckled for the democratic decision of the British people.

The idea that the average man on the street wanted to take his future into his hands was incomprehensible. They wrote voters off as confused, misinformed and uneducated - yet 43pc of voters came from the upper economic ranks.

And when Farage raised the prospect of starting calm and reasoned talks on trade deals, led by Jean Claude-Juncker, the Eurocrats behaved like children and showed him the door.

Brussels is losing the run of itself - as an inaccessible, impenetrable and politically unanswerable superpower - and in the centenary of our independence, we must take seriously the fact that it no longer believes in transparency or the majority rule.

The fact that we pay them for this privilege should be motivation enough. One in five European staff earns over €150,000. Since 2009 our 12 MEPs have taken home more than €24m (€2m each) in salaries and expenses. They should remember who they are working for.

And yet, for some, it seems the super state superiority is catching. On Thursday, Brian Hayes MEP, released a press statement that ranged from patronising to arrogant. Written in bold letters, the Fine Gael politician demanded to know 'Who dares to speak for Europe?'

Stay, leave or renegotiate, I hope Brexit has energised us enough to start asking a few questions of our own.

Sunday Independent

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