‘Is EU worth the price?’ Now Ireland must take ‘a long hard look’ at Brussels membership

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Ray Bassett pulls no punches in his new book, ‘Ireland and the EU Post Brexit’, suggesting the benefits bestowed on Dublin by Brussels are drying up, with “difficult choices” on the horizon. With Ireland now a net contributor to the EU, Mr Bassett, former Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, has consistently argued his country should side with the so-called “frugal four” of the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden when it comes to budgetary considerations.

In his book, he writes: “We need a long hard look at our EU membership and pose the question, is it worth the price?”

“The billionaire businessman, George Soros, an ardent europhile, has accepted the inevitable and predicted that unless the EU reforms it will perish.

“The pipe dreams of Emmanuel Macron and his proposals for even a more centralised EU are vanishing against the cold reality of the desire for the citizenry of EU Member States for national sovereignty.

“The disastrous showing of the establishment centre-right and centre-left parties in the 2019 European Parliament elections demonstrated this in a very direct way.”

With specific reference to his own country, he adds: “Those in Ireland and elsewhere who unthinkingly supposed treaty after treaty – the Single European Act, Amsterdam, Nice, Maastricht, Lisbon etc – without having the faintest idea what were in them, bear a very heavy responsibility for the sorry state Europe is in at present.

“They treated the average citizen with contempt and broke the connection between the ordinary citizen and the State.

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“They must accept their responsibility for Brexit and future departures from the EU and the eurozone.”

Ireland, now lead by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, needed a real debate on its future direction, Mr Bassett argues, after writing his book while Leo Varadkar, another committed europhile, and leader of Fine Gael, was the country’s Taoiseach.

He writes: “Too many of our leaders, whether political, media or in big business, have a vested interest in the status quo. They have grown too close to Brussels.

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“They seem incapable or unwilling at looking at the wider perspective and a changing external environment.

“Groupthink dominates the whole narrative. This has been a recurrent and extremely debilitating aspect of Irish public life for generations.”

Setting out his alternative vision, Mr Bassett explains the motivation for many who, like him, oppose further European integration and a desire for nation states to regain sovereignty.

He adds: “Of course, modern interdependence makes it impossible for any State to enjoy a reasonable standard of living unless it is prepared to share control of specific economic and trade areas with like-minded States.

“However, this should not mean that we run up the white flag on efforts to determine as much as possible of our future by ourselves or that we reverse the efforts of many generations of Irish people to establish a sovereign State and Parliament on the island of Ireland.”

The final paragraphs of Mr Bassett’s book urges readers to ignore the trials and tribulations of Boris Johnson’s predecessor when considering the benefits of quitting the bloc.

He explains: “There are valid arguments on both sides of the debate regarding future membership of the EU.

“Just summarily dismissing the viewpoint of those we disagree with does a disservice to all of us.

“We should also be prepared to look past the terrible mess that ex-British Prime Minister, Theresa May, made of the earlier part of Brexit, which should not blind us to the fundamental arguments.

“Brexit may look much better in retrospect than at present.”

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