The upcoming UK in/out referendum on Europe and the question of further Eurozone integration are two great opportunities for Europe and for Ireland according to Brian Hayes. The Fine Gael MEP was speaking at the Magill Summer School in Donegal.
“Our economy resembles the British model. IT, financial services and a heavy dependence on exporting mark both of us out.
“Since the 1980s Europe has established a single market, liberalised trade and demolished protectionist barriers to the freedom of movement of goods, services and people.
“Ireland joining the EU was a kind of coming out to the world. In fact the new relationship Ireland has built with the UK, especially in relation to Northern Ireland, was greatly helped by our joint membership of the EU.
“Last September I said that a British In/out referendum was no bad thing, in that it once and for all resolved a question that has bedevilled British politics for a generation. I actually believe that a referendum in the UK on Europe may help to define a new relationship with Europe.
“Germany wants to help David Cameron and will do everything, bar treaty change, to keep the British in.
Many in Europe agree with Britain’s argument for reform of the EU, but resent the way that reform is put forward as an exclusive British concern.
Mr Hayes also spoke about future possibilities for the Euro, in the context of a potential dilemma for Britain but also an opportunity for the Eurozone.
“People only want to join something or stay in something if they see a benefit in it. People are dissatisfied with Europe because Europe is not working. How can it when 23 million EU citizens have no work and where youth unemployment stands at over 20%. Over 90% of the world growth this year is not in Europe. Europe is getting older and less productive. Europe has to change and the adjustment is difficult but necessary.
“Europe needs to be reformed from top to bottom. But in my view, that reform agenda can only work by continuing the essential integration of the Eurozone.
“Reform must be a two way process. If it is right that countries in excessive deficit spend less and tax more so as to reduce risks to the Euro area, it must equally be right that countries with a surplus spend more to compensate for reduced economic activity elsewhere in the Euro area. In the same way on the issue of debt and state borrowing, is it conceivable that a country could be told to borrow more, as many have been told to borrow less?
“What is needed now is a new idealism for the European Union. And that idealism can only be constructed by showing to the world, that the Euro is here to stay, and that we Europeans are going to complete the task of making the euro work. The euro is not some currency construct – it’s is our currency and we have to defend and strengthen it.
“So to conclude, I very much hope and believe that Britain remains in the EU. I think we have a role to play in arguing for an agreement that is good for Britain and good for the EU. Notwithstanding the result of the referendum, we along with other euro area Member States have a responsibility to complete the project of EMU. That’s the best way to deliver the increased prosperity we all desire for all Europeans. If we make the euro the strong reserve currency that it can become, that is the best way to deliver long-term sustainable growth.”