Your gut is telling you to vote No - trust your instincts


OPINION:If you believe this treaty will mean more austerity and less democracy then vote No

WITH ONLY days left in the austerity treaty referendum campaign a large number of voters remain undecided.

Many of you know that this treaty is a bad deal for Ireland and for Europe. This is why the Government has been unable to give you a single positive reason to vote Yes.

Many of you know that there is nothing in this treaty that will stabilise the euro or address the causes of the currency crisis. This is why governments and parliaments across Europe, including in Germany and France, are refusing to ratify the treaty.

Many of you also know that the treaty, if ratified, will lead to more austerity and more powers being transferred to EU institutions. That is why your gut is telling you to vote No.

Many of you though are fearful of the potential consequences of a No vote because the Government keeps telling you that rejection of the treaty will result in economic collapse.

As you weigh up the arguments of both sides in this debate you are probably asking yourself whom should you believe. On Thursday, when you go to vote, trust your instincts. If you believe, as I do, that this treaty will mean more austerity and less democracy then vote No. The treaty will result in a significant increase in the level of austerity to be imposed after we exit the current troika programme in 2013.

The Department of Finance estimates that we will have a structural deficit of 3.5 per cent in 2015. The gap between this and the 0.5 per cent rule demanded in the austerity treaty is in the region of €6 billion. Bridging this gap will require further spending cuts and tax increases.

What will this mean for you and your family? It will mean more cuts to frontline services in health and education. It will mean more tax hikes and stealth charges like the household charge and VAT increase.

This will increase the level of financial hardship being experienced by you and your family. At a time when people are already pinned to their collar and telling the Government that they have nothing left to give, Fine Gael and Labour will come looking for more.

This extra austerity will also hurt the local economy. People will have less money in their pockets and will spend less on local goods and services. The domestic economy is already struggling. Retail has been hit particularly hard, resulting in loss of wages and jobs.

Wrenching another €6 billion from the domestic economy can only mean more job losses.

As if this were not bad enough, the austerity treaty seeks to enforce the same policy across the EU at the same time.

This means that key export markets for Irish companies will be shrinking at the very time we need them to expand. With export growth already performing poorly this year, the last thing our export sector needs is to close off such an important market.

Economic recovery can only be built on investment in jobs and growth. You cannot balance the books with 440,000 people signing on. The austerity treaty is anti-jobs and anti-growth.

The treaty, if ratified, will also result in a significant transfer of power from the Irish electorate and the Oireachtas to the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.

If ratified, new enforcement procedures will come into being for countries that are deemed to be in breach of the rules. The European Commission will have the power to dictate detailed policy prescriptions to those it deems are not doing enough to comply with the draconian rules.

In addition, the European Court of Justice will have the power to impose fines of up to €160 million on countries that do not keep to the rules.

Today the troika is dictating which taxes to raise, which benefits to cut and which State assets to sell off. If we ratify this treaty, the European Commission will have those same powers in the future.

Fine Gael and Labour may be willing participants in the current austerity programme, but hopefully in the future we will have a government that will pursue a better policy. This will be made all the more difficult if we transfer yet more power away from the electorate and the Oireachtas to the European Commission and European Court of Justice.

It is also important to remember that these harsh rules and tough enforcements will be enshrined in international law and given the protection of the Constitution. This means that they could only be amended with the agreement of all the other countries that signed, making them virtually impossible to change.

Throughout the referendum campaign, the Government has claimed that rejection of the austerity treaty will close off future access to emergency funding from the European Stability Mechanism.

This is simply not true. The rules of the ESM are clear. Funding will be provided to any country where such funding is deemed indispensable to safeguard the financial stability of the euro zone as a whole. If the Government requires emergency funding in 2014, and I believe it will, this funding will be provided by the ESM. Failure to do so would jeopardise the entire euro zone economy.

On Thursday you have an important decision to make. Do you vote for more austerity and more power being transferred to the European Union? Or do you vote for a change of direction.

All across Europe people are abandoning the failed policy of austerity. The tide is turning. The debate has moved on. The austerity treaty is clearly past its sell-by date.

On May 31st you have an opportunity to join the European mainstream. You have an opportunity to make a positive stand for Ireland and for Europe.

When you walk into the polling station on Thursday and make up your mind how to vote, trust yourself, trust your instincts and vote No.

Pearse Doherty TD is Sinn Féin spokesman on finance.

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