Just over a year ago the Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty, which was itself a vaguely named rehash of the EU Constitution already rejected by the French and the Dutch.
At the end of this week, the Irish will be asked if no still means no.
A constitution is supposed to be the guarantee of citizens’ rights. The rights of the individual are supposed to balance the powers of the state.
NEW NAME, SAME GAME
If the Lisbon Treaty, which contains the essence of the European Constitution, strengthened individual rights that would be one thing.
However, it greatly increases the powers of a state, not the nation state in which you were born, but a new super state. And it provides no balancing increase in your individual rights.
The EU is expanding too fast... time for a pause
It has failed to deliver the individual freedoms that the EU claims are "fundmental". While it's broken down the barriers to (especially big) business, the EU has lied about its supposed benefit for individuals.
That's why talk of a constitution, renamed the Lisbon treaty, is a sham.
1) The Free Movement of Goods
Judged on what the EU has done since its origin, it exists to make life easier for big corporations.
Decades after the EU established freedom of movement for goods by companies, it still has not enshrined the same freedoms for individuals. The EU has been slow to consider the problem of double taxation which often affects hire-purchase cars or the house contents when people move jobs across borders.
2) A Single Market for Services
While multinational corporations, politicians and EU bureaucrats move freely around the EU, individuals often can’t pay into their pensions from a second country, or even open bank accounts in their native country while they are living abroad.
3) The Free Movement of Capital
Expat workers with bank accounts abroad are considered “offshore tax cheats” by EU governments. The EU thinks all countries should have the same tax rates because different rates distort the free movement of capital.
Irish EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has said the EU’s long term agenda is to “take control of taxation”. If Mr McCreevy is right, small countries will be forced to match the high tax rates of core European countries like France, Germany and Italy.
To really tax people hard, you have to stop them moving to where the tax is lower.
4) The Free Movement of Persons
Our great-grandparents had much greater freedom of movement than we have, hemmed in by visas, work permits, taxes and restrictions on moving our meager wealth and possessions. Again, the EU’s actions show that it aims to keep workers under the thumb, with their movements, banking arrangements and personal information regulated and monitored.
The EU’s idea of free movement is cheap migrant labour for companies.
For middle class professionals working abroad, the EU’s failure to harmonise financial services means individuals face a minefield of conflicting legislation. Strangely, this has been smoothed away for large corporations.
5) The Free Movement of Knowledge
The European Commission started talking about this fifth "freedom" in 2007. However, far from removing barriers to freedom of thought, the EU is creating new ones.
The EU is funding the development of mass surveillance techniques on a European scale, which Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty calls “positively chilling”.
From the above you can see that the EU is not against regulation. It is against regulation that it doesn’t control. It is not for a free market, but very much the opposite: a regulated market in which Brussels will decide who are the winners.
TOO MUCH CREDIT
People mistakenly think Brussels created the Celtic Tiger. Brussels fosters this misconception.
Ireland’s rapid growth followed the deregulation of the late 1990s, as politicians saw the benefit of liberating business rather than harnessing it for their own ends.
Corporate tax rates were cut to 12.5%, very low by international standards, and income tax to a maximum of 41%. The service sector boomed, especially finance, because it became much easier to do business.
This was not the EU’s doing. In fact, the EU wants to harmonise taxes, which would forbid the low corporate tax rate that drove Ireland’s boom in the first place.
Just last week EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso flew to Limerick to offer €14 million in aid, after PC maker Dell closed its plant. Yet, Dell is getting €54 million in EU aid to shift the plant to Poland!
BARROSO MUST THINK WE'RE DUMB
Where you can thank the EU, is for the single currency. The single interest rate, set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, was too low for the red hot Irish economy.
Rates were set to levels which favored the sclerotic economies of France and Italy and southern Europe.
In Ireland, cheap loans went in search of a fast buck, driving the real estate bubble.
EU SHARES BLAME FOR BOOM
Even during the downturn, the EU continues to push for a standard minimum wage which would, if adopted, keep unemployment higher than it needs to be.
An economy needs flexibility, so that asset prices can adjust, falling to the level where asset prices reflect the value they produce. That needs a flexible exchange rate, flexible wages.
Europe and the United States were brought close to a second Great Depression by the failure of politicians, regulators and international institutions, the EU among them.
This is not the time to reward failure by giving even more power to those who brought us to this pass.