“Membership of the EU is good for Ireland and good for Irish business”
Also stresses the need for a deal to be struck in the national partnership talks.
“Maintaining competitiveness is key”
Brian Goggin, Group Chief Executive at Bank of Ireland, speaking at the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Annual Dinner in Dublin on 1st May, called for a “resounding yes vote on June 12th” in the constitutional referendum on the Lisbon Reform Treaty.
Referring to the forthcoming referendum during his address he said: “This referendum is about two things. It is about the content of the treaty itself and it is also about the broader question of whether we want to belong to the European Union or not and what type of members we want to be.
Those who are against the Treaty will tell you it is not about the latter. Their main slogan seems to be that a vote against the Lisbon Treaty is not a vote against Europe. This is a seductive and tempting line but it is also completely wrong. I also believe that it is being used because those who articulate it know that the vast majority of people in Ireland are committed to the European Union and do not want to jeopardise our hard won position in the Union after many years of committed effort.
My interpretation of the Lisbon Reform Treaty is that it is mainly about how a Union of 27 nations organises itself to be most coherent and efficient in how it achieves its objectives and serves the interests of its various members. It makes sense to me that you cannot organise and represent the interests of a group of 27 countries in the same way as you do so for a group of nine as it was when Ireland first joined the European Economic Community in 1973.
Many advantages will flow to Ireland and to Irish business from the simple fact that the EU is better organised. A well-structured market of 500 million people that we are an integral part of makes good sense in my view for a country like Ireland where we export 85% of everything we produce.
This is particularly the case when we consider how our trading relationships have changed since joining the Community. Before 1973 Irish exports were predominantly to the UK with 55% of total exports going to that market. Today, that figure, while still important is 18% while exports to the EU have grown from €265 million in 1973 to €32 billion today. This is not a relationship to turn our back on.
Some of the practical institutional reforms in the Treaty include giving a new role to the national parliaments, including the Oireachtas; giving more influence to the democratically elected European Parliament; giving the European Union new scope to deal with major issues of global concern such as climate change and making the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding. Most importantly, and this is one of the areas where confusion is being created, under the Lisbon Treaty Ireland will retain the veto on decisions in relation to Taxation, including Corporation Tax, key areas of Social Policy and Foreign Direct Investment.
This is a critical point for business and indeed for the whole economy and bears repeating. Under the Lisbon Treaty Ireland retains the veto on taxation changes and no amount of rumour mongering by those opposed to the Treaty and no amount of wishful thinking by Ministers from other Member States changes that. In fact passing the Lisbon Treaty referendum actually copper-fastens our Corporate Tax regime, rather than threatening it.
The final point I will make in relation to the Lisbon Treaty is this. I referred earlier to Social Partnership as one of the pillars of our economic success in recent years. I believe our membership of the EU and, indeed, our positive approach to being hard-working positive citizens of the EU is another, equally important pillar of our success. Many benefits flow from being positive, pro-active members of the Community. A rejection of the Treaty could seriously impair those benefits. The best way of influencing the future direction of the EU is from within as one of the leaders of the Community. Rejection, far from improving our negotiating position as some would have us believe, risks marginalizing Ireland in the camp of the Euro-sceptics.
As business leaders I believe we have a responsibility to show leadership, to stand up and be counted and to articulate the case and use our influence to ensure a resounding “yes” vote on June 12th.”
Addressing the need for the right deal to be struck in the current round of national partnership talks, Brian Goggin said:
“I believe that the national partnership process has served this country well. In the main and taken together over many years it has been one of the pillars of our economic success.
I believe two things are important out of this process. Firstly that we commit to doing a deal. This is not the time to abandon a process that works despite the undoubted challenges of achieving agreement. Secondly, it is equally important that we do the right deal. All of the partners together must look collectively into the medium and longer term and do what is right to ensure we move seamlessly as a nation from a period of rapid growth to a period of more moderate, but still strong growth that above all is sustainable. Maintaining our international competitiveness is critical in my view to achieving this desired and necessary outcome.”
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