Wednesday 26 October 2016

Changing Europe puts us in great danger

Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30

Brexit Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Brexit Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Whether one views the vote for Brexit as an act of reckless improvidence or as an inevitable response in the face of an over-reaching bureaucratic hegemony, Europe has changed irrevocably.

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The debate will soon move on to what happens next, and given the cascading consequences, we are unlikely to have much time to reflect. Even so, it is worth remembering that from this weekend, 100 years ago, 100,000 people were killed at the Somme over a four-month period. The war to end all wars was followed by an ever greater one.

With this in mind, it is also worth recalling that we are currently enjoying the greatest peaceful period the continent has known. This is in no small part due to the fact that closer ties and common interests have kept aggressive reflexes in check.

Given the paucity of leadership in the UK and in Brussels at the moment, there is added poignancy in the words and wisdom of Winston Churchill, who mused: "We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and...wherever they go in this wide domain...will truly feel, 'Here I am at home'." It is to be hoped that such idealism can again be woven into the fabric of a new Europe; but for the moment we must fix on the immediate aftermath of Brexit.

Ireland's small, open economy is extremely exposed to the risks that go with a plunging, more competitive pound and the attendant prospect of recession in the UK. It may be necessary for Brussels and Britain to delay things, but this country has no choice but to play the hand it has been dealt. Brexit comes with an unknown price tag - as belatedly admitted by our Government. The only response is to be alert to the dangers while being prepared to pounce on the opportunities in the race to pick up the pieces.

Pay claims add a further threat to our economy

This week, the outgoing chairman of the Labour Court issued a heartfelt appeal to the Government, employers and unions to "get their act together" on pay. His call to also set up a national forum to tackle the storm clouds on the industrial horizon seems even more prescient, given unfolding events.

Kevin Duffy made a case for a new model for social partnership to be engineered to meet the gathering storms.

It is essential that some effective means of facilitating engagement be put in place. The number of growing calls for pay claims after so many years of retrenchment must be addressed.

In the wake of the protracted Luas row, gardaí and teachers are lining up to press claims which come with the threat of serious industrial disruption hanging over them. September could see school closures.

For its part, the Garda Representative Association insists it has no desire to disrupt the public.

However, whatever it does will have repercussions.

It is already planning to withdraw cooperation with a vital modernisation plan, which can only adversely affect the public. By refusing to sign up to the Landsdowne Road deal, thousands of gardaí and teachers will now be subject to a two-year pay pause under emergency legislation.

There must be a way to break this impasse, given the many threats already facing the economy. Expectations need to be managed and grounds for negotiation need to be realistic. Nonetheless, dialogue beats all-out dispute every time.

Irish Independent

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