Is Voting ‘No’ Europhobic?

European FlagDeclan Ganley writes in the Irish Times that another rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish people will not deter foreign direct investment to Ireland. However, to commentators in the US and elsewhere, the impression now is of a ‘two-speed’ Europe.

I would like to ask Mr. Ganley: If he was a foreign businessman with naught but commercial interest in our small island, would he feel more confident or less confident investing in Ireland on the assumption of indefinite privileged access to European markets after a ‘No’ vote? Under such completely hypothetical circumstances, I have no doubt that his interest in our nation would evaporate.

It is not really clear what might happen in the event of a ‘No’ vote. It is true that nobody will confuse rejection of the treaty with a desire to pull out of Europe.

However, it brings into stark contrast the differing levels of commitment within Europe to further integration. That might constitute a worryingly europhobic message to foreign direct investment.

Even if you might be voting against the treaty for other reasons and out of other concerns, it will be impossible for anyone to decipher the source of this rejection – and be content that it doesn’t contain a whiff of europhobia.

This is especially true in the case of those outside of Europe and with only superficial knowledge of the Irish political landscape. Unfortunately, foreign companies considering entry to the European market and investment in Europe tend to be run by these kinds of people.

There are implied benefits to firms of further integration. Less bureaucracy and regulation of trade between member countries, so that we can benefit even more from the common market. Allowing even more free movement of labour, capital goods, services and enterprise make Europe a better place to do business.

When you’re a major multi-national company, these considerations are not negligible.

You want to be confident that you’re not backing the wrong horse when you invest in Europe. In twenty years, you don’t want to regret not choosing (say) a country in Eastern Europe as your base of operations. That’s why it is so important that Ireland sends the message: We are committed to Europe.

Not just because Europe has been good to us in the past. It has. Not just because the Lisbon Treaty will make Europe more efficient in the long run. It will.

Is this support for the Treaty out of fear? Nope. There are enough positive reasons to do so already, but the symbolic important of a ‘Yes’ vote to future investment and employment creation just reminds us how critical it is to do so and encourage others to do so.

Unfortunately, rejection makes no economic sense. Don’t listen to Declan Ganley, and the handful of quotes he can cite to support his case.

© The Free Marketeer 2009

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