EU partners will remember just who killed off Lisbon

Sat, Jun 14, 2008, 01:00

ECONOMIC REACTION:Business reaction is united in fearing the result will damage our negotiating position, writes Paul Tansey.

THE DEFEAT of the Lisbon Treaty is unlikely to impose any direct costs on the Irish economy in the immediate future.

No short-term price will be exacted from Irish businesses in consequence of the outcome. Prior EU funding commitments to the Republic are unaffected by the referendum result.

No institutional links have been severed and Ireland remains a fully paid-up member of both the EU and the euro-zone single currency.

In the longer term, however, the Republic may suffer a loss of influence in Europe's corridors of power. This could prove costly where vital Irish economic interests are at risk in the future.

All EU financial support for structural fund investments and for Ireland's share of funding under the Common Agriculture Policy (Cap) has been agreed already for the years to 2013, a spokesman for the Department of Finance confirmed yesterday. These EU financial supports will remain in place in the wake of yesterday's vote.

"In terms of ordinary Irish businesses, the referendum result is not going to make much difference, certainly in the short term," Brendan Butler, director of EU and international affairs at the employers' group Ibec told The Irish Times yesterday.

Butler, a leading advocate of the treaty within the business community, said that the loss of Irish influence in the EU decision-making process would be the principal fall-out from the referendum result.

"Ireland has always punched above its weight at European level, and this was made possible by our capacity to build alliances. These alliances may not be so strong now as a result of yesterday's vote," Mr Butler continued, adding "the degree of uncertainty created may have a price tag".

This view was echoed by Paul Sweeney, economic adviser to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu).

"The Lisbon Treaty is dead and it will be remembered that Ireland killed it," Sweeney said.

"The result sends a bad signal to Europe. The big negative lies in the fact that the passage of the treaty would have made Europe more efficient as a bureaucracy. This would have strengthened Europe's ability to deal with major global economic crises like the surge in oil prices. But we have lost that opportunity now," Sweeney continued.

IDA Ireland expressed disappointment with the referendum result. By providing unhindered access to the European marketplace, membership of the European Union had attracted almost 1,000 modern foreign companies to Ireland, Ruth Croke of the IDA said yesterday. "We don't want to lose the goodwill of Europe," she added.

Asked if the referendum result would make it more difficult to market the Republic to foreign investors, Croke said that the IDA was not yet in a position to make a judgment of the impact of the referendum outcome on foreign investment inflows.

Of the 994 IDA-sponsored foreign firms operating in Ireland in 2007, 474 were US-owned while 431 were of European origin. Virtually all target EU markets for a large slice of their sales.