Robert Schuman was a former Vichy bureaucrat who became finance minister in post-war reunified France. He later became French foreign minister, then president of the European Movement, now official historians of European integration call him an “architect of the European Integration Project”. EU Public Relations officials celebrate Schuman’s declaration (made on the 9th of May 1950) as Europe’s birthday with photos of cupcake with a single European candle[sic.]. The European Parliament awarded Schuman the title: “Father of Europe”. Two years later he died, in 1963.
Europe, according to Schuman “will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity […] to secure in the shortest time the supply of coal and steel […] which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war”. The 1951 Treaty of Paris formed the European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) introducing an open market for military raw materials. The ECSC morphed into the Common Market, the Economic Community (EEC/EC) and now the European Union (EU) while adding the regional currency, The Euro; a currency managed in Frankfurt but spent in Dublin and Athens. When the global financial crisis hit Europe, again EU Federalism was mooted as a cure. Where is the debate in Ireland and in the UK on a federal EU? Are we really that insular?
Fast forward to 2016, almost a decade into the EU crisis, and the Anglo-Saxon press in Europe frames its “Europe” debate between two goalposts (‘Brexit’ and ‘Grexit’), as coined in the Financial Times by German journalist, Wolfgang Munchau.
Brexit is one possible result of Britain’s June 23rd referendum on a UK exit from the EU. The Brexit referendum follows mild-mannered arguments by UK Prime Minister on legislative flexibility (mainly financial safeguards for the City of London). David Cameron’s suggestions for sovereignty loopholes for the UK absenting them from EU financial controls rubbed the other European leaders up the wrong way. Perhaps this is not surprising as EU nations, the UK and Ireland included, are desperately trying to navigate the financial and political fallout of the European phase of the Great Recession.
Grexit revisits Summer 2015, when SYRIZA leaders capitulated to further austerity (and more Sovereign debt) while remaining in the Eurozone countermanding their own referendum decision to reject the third EU offer. Even the IMF recognizes this as a third phase of Extend and Pretend in Greece, kicking the stone down the road till 2016 (afterBrexit).
Globally, European integration, an open EU market, and the survival of the Euro, is debated in the Bank For International Settlements (BIS) and the G20 and the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Barack Obama conveyed his opinions to European leaders in his recent springtime visit. Neither Brexit nor Grexit are income neutral for hedge funds. Vulture funds would do well should Schaüble have his way forcing Greece out of the Euro and Brexit offers lucrative fluctuations in Sterling Foreign Exchange futures.
In the German Bundestag and in the other seats of EU power mum’s the word. Brussels and Frankfurt feign business as usual.
UK and Irish newspapers debate European Integration using national balance-sheet arguments on EU contributions and the taxation that pays for this. Taxation without representation is certainly an important issue, but this masks a deeper debate on supranationalism and European federalism. In Dublin’s Fleet Street, border controls and national corporate tax rates form part of a cautious debate on sustainable growth under conditions of high debt. Lucky for Ireland the term Irexit doesn’t quite roll off the tongue: “Ireland is not Greece” after all.
Instead of debating Federalism in Ireland a parochial debate focuses predominantly on national interests particularly its low corporate tax rates and the choice by US multinationals to offshore their EU headquarters locally. Ireland is English speaking; its trade and cultural ties are North Atlantic, a reflection of its history and its ongoing emigration; locally rebranded ‘diaspora’. None of this bodes well if Brexit passes. Ireland’s eastward facing Euroports export to Britain; there is significant cross-border trade with Northern Ireland. The governing coalition fears geographical isolation between Washington D.C. and (a possibly non-EU) Westminster.