Sunday 20 October 2019

One in five feel we must start process of leaving EU


MORE than one in five Irish people now believe Ireland should begin the process of gradual disengagement from the EU, according to a Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll.

In all, 23 per cent want out of the European Union -- and the poll also found that while support for the European project remains strong, many of the 73 per cent in favour of retaining the status quo openly admit that their support for continued EU membership was based on fear of the alternatives.

In response to a separate question, 20 per cent say Ireland should leave the euro zone, the 17-country economic and monetary union, while 80 per cent say we should stay in the euro.

Meanwhile, the chair of the European Parliament's influential Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has said Ireland should get its interest rate cut, by Europe, by one per cent now and a further two per cent as a refund on interest paid on completion of the loan term.

MEP Sharon Bowles said it was outrageous that Europe should be reaping a three per cent profit from Ireland when the loan to Ireland helps other member states too.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, she said that many people in Germany are unaware that they were also culpable in the problems of countries like Ireland and Greece.

"The German people have always had a very high savings ratio, but instead of spending that money generating economic activity at home, the country went whizzing around Europe chasing higher earnings in places like Ireland and Greece," she said.

Sharon Bowles MEP is convinced Ireland will get the one per cent cut "sooner rather than later". "I can't see them holding out," she said yesterday. "A one per cent cut has to come for Ireland."

The UK MEP says that a further two per cent of the interest being paid by Ireland on its loans from Europe should be refundable on completion of the programme of recovery.

She said such a move would make a significant impact on the speed at which Ireland could return to the capital markets, and could prove a launch pad for faster economic recovery.

She said it was simply wrong that the EU should be reaping a three per cent profit on the money they have lent to Ireland, especially since the arrangement helps them too.

Last week she said she was outraged by the conditions imposed on Ireland regarding the interest rate on its EU loans, saying that Ireland had the recipe to respond to the economic and banking crisis but is being treated harshly by its EU partners.

The British MEP said Ireland had taken "one for the team" by bailing out banks as demanded by the ECB, adding she could see no reason why lending countries should turn a three per cent profit.

"A lower interest rate would mean a faster recovery, which is surely in the interests of the EU and the ECB as well as Ireland.

"Of the three countries in programmes, Ireland is performing best in class, so to suggest corporation tax measures in return for an interest rate reduction is simply spiteful."

She also called for a medium-term financing facility for Irish banks, saying that Ireland would be helped if the ECB could give firmer commitment to medium-term funding rather than repeated rollovers every 14 days.

"Such measures would help prevent contagion from uncertainty about Greece," she said.

"We should not underestimate the scale of the resentment of Irish citizens about the banking debt and the burden that has been imposed on them, especially the part that is aiding stability of the banking sector in the EU."

According to the Sunday Independent poll, 80 per cent of people do not want Ireland to leave the eurozone. As well as fear of the alternatives, there were many respondents who remain committed to the European project and believe it would be dishonourable for us to abandon the EU given all the progress we have made as a country since joining.

"I say no, but of course I know that if we pulled out, we could de-value and become competitive very quickly -- but at what cost to all the other supports we get from the EU?" was one response.

Others believe leaving the eurozone would be catastrophic for Ireland: "It would be economic suicide to do this. We would never be forgiven."

Meanwhile, 54 per cent would back French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as the next head of the IMF.

Those in favour of her appointment point to the convivial relations between Ms Lagarde and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

"She is friendly, I think. She is intelligent and she knows us," said one of the respondents polled.

Sunday Independent

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