Is the Lisbon Treaty good for business?


Maurice Prattargues in favour a Yes vote Declan Ganleyargues to the contrary.


Lisbon, like all other previous EU treaties, is good for Ireland's economy, for business and for jobs. There is no point in isolating ourselves, writes Maurice Pratt

AS WE decide how to vote on June 12th, I would ask you to consider what outcome would best suit Ireland, the Irish economy and Irish jobs.

Although we have clearly benefited from earlier treaties, the same sort of myths and misinformation that opponents of these treaties repeat has yet again muddied the debate. They have been wrong for 35 years, and they are wrong this time as well.

My view is that the Lisbon Treaty introduces relatively modest - but welcome - reforms to the institutions of Europe. It ties all 27 member states, six large and 21 small, into a simpler, more democratic and more effective institutional framework, which very successfully secures Ireland's seat at the top table. The delicate balance between smaller and larger states is maintained, and this will ensure that Ireland's voice will continue to be heard.

Where it is important to co-operate more with other European countries, the treaty allows this to happen. It gives the union more powers in limited, but important areas, such as cross-border crime and energy security, so that, together, member states can respond to the new and very different challenges that face us. Importantly for Irish jobs and for the Irish economy, the treaty ensures that key economic interests are protected. Our ability to set our own tax policy is guaranteed - Ireland will retain its veto on decision-making in this area.

Misleading claims that the treaty threatens Ireland's tax regime have been repeatedly exposed as nonsense. The independent Referendum Commission, chaired by High Court judge Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, has stated categorically that there are no changes in the treaty with regard to tax. This means that Ireland will remain among one of the most attractive places in the world to invest.

In so many ways, this treaty has all the appearance of having been designed for our interests, as a small open economy. I cannot imagine how rejecting the Lisbon Treaty would better serve and protect our interests. A more fragmented, disjointed EU is a much more likely scenario.

A rejection would prolong an already-protracted period of introspection in Europe on the rules that govern the EU. The case for Lisbon is not, however, about championing the benefits of the status quo or highlighting the risks associated with rejection, it is about much more. For me, the EU has always been about new opportunities, and any objective assessment of our membership to date would support this. Irish business has prospered significantly through EU membership and delivered in terms of job creation. This has led to massive economic and social benefits for all sectors of Irish society.

This success is linked to Ireland's joining the then European Economic Community in 1973, but also importantly to the support by the Irish people of various treaty revisions over the past 35 years. Although sometimes complex and rarely exciting, treaties matter. They have a direct impact on our day-to-day lives and on the success of Ireland in Europe and in the wider world.

Perhaps the most tangible benefit that previous treaties have delivered is jobs. The Single European Act in 1987 was a major building block to the single market, which opened up vast new opportunities to Irish companies. The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 gave Irish exporters a strong global currency that didn't fluctuate with the mood of speculators in London or on Wall Street.

The Nice Treaty in 2002 made it practical for the countries of central and eastern Europe to join and, in doing so, provided major new markets for Irish exporters. Each treaty has improved Ireland's position in Europe and the world. This treaty will do the same.

By way of example, the Lisbon Treaty gives for the first time a role to the EU in terms of energy security. It provides for co-operation between member states in relation to energy supply and promotes the interconnection of energy networks. In the current environment of rising oil prices, concerns regarding medium-term supply levels and our reliance on fossil fuels, a co-ordinated approach to energy supply is vital for an island economy such as Ireland. The treaty provides a strengthened commitment to improve transport infrastructure across Europe. As a trading economy that exports almost 90 per cent of everything we produce, transport costs are a major concern for Irish companies; any measures that will allow us to get our goods and services to market quicker and cheaper is positive.

As new and very powerful economic forces enter the global market, Europe's strength will, in my view, lie in its cohesion and unity. Ireland's economic security lies within this forward-looking Europe. The EU is, at its very essence, about European countries coming together to solve shared problems and create shared opportunities.

We are a small trading nation on the edge of Europe. The open, rules-based system that the EU creates enables Irish companies like my own to compete more effectively with those in the largest European countries.

There was never a time when it made economic sense to isolate ourselves. It would be particularly foolhardy now, in an increasingly challenging global environment.

We should all take the time to know what is being offered and what might be torn apart. I am asking you to go to the polling station next week and to vote Yes.

Maurice Pratt is group chief executive of CC Group plc


Lisbon is bad for business: it will increase EU market regulation and will not expand market access, writes Declan Ganley.

DURING THE past decade or so, a group of vested interests chased the dragon that was the Irish property boom. Banks and their economists, the organs of the media and the estate agents, developers and builders who filled their coffers with advertising revenue, all persuaded us that the supercharged growth in property prices was good for the economy, would continue indefinitely and was economically sustainable for the foreseeable future. This orthodoxy was almost entirely unchallenged but for a number of naysayers who pointed out that the Irish property miracle was, in fact, a huge bubble waiting to burst.

To our great cost, we now know this to be the case, and those who were castigated as loo-las endangering our economic wellbeing by talking the market down, have now been proved right.

In the context of the Lisbon Treaty, we are told that every major business lobby, with the notable exception of Isme, is supporting the treaty. Ibec, the American Chamber of Commerce and the Small Firms Association have all given it their stamp of approval. One might ask how this can be reconciled with Libertas's position that this treaty is a bad deal for business.

In this regard, it is instructive to ask a few simple questions. What's in this treaty for business? What provisions of the treaty will specifically improve the operating environment for business? What are the negative consequences of a No vote? And finally, is there anything in this treaty that should worry those of us who are in business?

If you look at the Ibec Lisbon Treaty website, you will find 10 helpful arguments in favour of this treaty from a business standpoint. What are they? Well, first, we are told that Lisbon will "increase our access to European markets". How will this happen? Apparently Lisbon will "make the market more efficient".

In reality, Lisbon increases the number of areas in which the EU can regulate the market. It increases the union's policy competencies dramatically, while offering access to precisely zero new market sectors.

We are also told that we should support the treaty because "we retain our veto in key areas". This is hardly a positive reason to vote for anything. Rather, we would retain our vetoes far more effectively with a No vote. The confederation also states that we retain a veto over the exercise of powers with regard to foreign direct investment, touting this as a triumph while neglecting to mention that under Lisbon, for the first time, foreign direct investment becomes an exclusive competence of the EU.

Our ability to use the tools which have been wielded so successfully on our behalf by the IDA will now be subject to the agreement of the European Commission. It is not credible to suggest that Ireland's traditional ability to punch above its weight internationally will continue to be the case indefinitely in an expanding and deepening union.

Ibec and others repeatedly answer every question on taxation with the reply that "we have a veto on matters of taxation". They have accused me and Libertas of somehow trying to deny this, which we never have. The reality is that Ireland retains a veto - that is not in question.

What is in question is exactly how useful a veto is in defending our tax competitiveness, not our tax rates.

We know that it is the stated intention of our competitors in Europe to adopt measures that would nullify our tax advantage, and we also know that a majority of Irish MEPs have voted in the past to support such measures. We know that France, later this year, will propose the adoption of a common consolidated corporate taxation base (CCCTB) and will seek to proceed with its implementation on the basis of enhanced co-operation.

The probable method to be adopted is "taxation by sales destination" within those countries, whereby all goods sold into those countries would have their profits taxed at point of sale. Brendan Butler of Ibec himself said: "The idea of enhanced co-operation among a restricted set of member states changes the political calculus of the CCCTB issue . . . under the decision-making provisions for enhanced co-operation, the CCCTB project could be introduced merely with the support of a qualified majority of member states in council."

There is nothing in Lisbon that benefits you as a person in business. There is a lot that threatens you.

The people of Ireland can and should vote No to the Lisbon Treaty to give Brian Cowen a strong mandate to go back to his European colleagues and negotiate a better deal for Irish business, for Ireland and for Europe.

Declan Ganley is the founder of Libertas