"On Brexit: This is a crisis point for democracy. The consequence of the failure by the ruling elite and compliant governments, including our own, to realise that the democratic deficit that is integral to the EU...is what led to Brexit.." Catherine Connolly
This is a video of a statement made by Catherine Connolly, Independent TD for Galway West, in Dáil Éireann as part of the EU/UK Referendum debate on June 27, 2016. In our opinion this speech is one of the finest speeches you will ever get in Dáil Éireann.
We can judge and we can condemn the people that did not vote the way that the English Government, Irish Government or the EU wanted them to vote. We can remain in denial and we can continue to believe that the EU can continue as is without the UK and that our role is to be good European citizens and comply with the rules to hold back the tide or we can grow up and own up to the fact that this Government not only failed to see Brexit winning but took an active part in the project of fear that sought to scare the British electorate into remaining. Of equal significance, we could realise that this Government utterly failed to realise the importance of the electorate and the vote, except in so far as it was willing to look at a "Yes" vote and talk about the people, I am sure, having spoken but a vote to leave was, would be and is interpreted as a vote based on greed, narrow self interest, nationalism of the worst kind and dangerous anti-immigration views. In fact so busy were members of this Government canvassing for a "Yes" vote that little thought was put into the preparation of a contingency plan, although I welcome that this is now in place.
Since the vote, we have heard many commentators, journalists and ex-journalists describe the vote in Doomsday terms. According to Cliff Taylor, the overwhelming opinion of analysis is that the balance for the Irish economy will be negative, the only question being by how much. According to Fintan O'Toole, English nationalists, recklessly and casually, with barely a thought, have planted a bomb under the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland and so on. According to Pat Leahy, the nightmare has actually happened. Former President of the EU Parliament, Pat Cox, has talked of mines going off. This is the language of the "remain" campaign. They spoke of hidden mines and people walking on them, causing them to explode and that people would not be expecting them.
Deputy Micheál Martin described said, "Brexit would be bad for Britain, bad for Ireland, bad for Europe and, as the IMF pointed out last week, bad for the world." John Bruton utterly failed to recognise the significance of the referendum and of the crisis that a Brexit would create for the EU. Many of these same people and others repeatedly pointed out in the media that the Brexit side had no plan of action, which was a fair comment and a fair question. However nobody put the question as to what was the contingency plan of those who favoured remaining, including our own Government. Therefore, before and after the vote we continue to see one right way to vote and one right way to behave. It does not occur to the commentators, to the Irish Government, to the UK Government and, most important, to the EU itself that despite the projection of fear and total manipulation of same to force a desired result, the electorate was not fooled. The only foolish people are those of us who are still unable to digest and learn from the fact that more than 17 million people voted for a Brexit.
The EU project, led by an elite that is unaccountable to the people, is utterly deaf to what people in different countries, including Ireland, have been saying about the EU: its growing size and power, its overall control and the volume of legislation emanating from the EU, notwithstanding the constant bombardment from the establishment to remain. This should alert us and red bells should ring that something is seriously amiss with the EU itself.
As significant is the Lisbon treaty being amiss. I have it here and I have read it. Article 50 specifically provides that any member state may withdraw from the EU. Article 50 does not preclude a country from applying to rejoin the EU but "its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49". Clearly, the Lisbon treaty provides for an orderly and a managed exit of any country from the EU. Given the doomsday scenario both prior to and subsequent to the Brexit referendum, the question must be asked why Article 50 was put into the treaty at all if it was not contemplated that a country might exit. It also begs the question as to whether other articles in the Lisbon treaty similarly are there only as token gestures to be implemented or not depending on the needs of the markets. Consider the article on democracy and participation. Article 10.3 of the Lisbon treaty - a wonderful article - states "Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen." However, the words and content of this article are different from the reality. One need only look at how local government resources have been depleted and how almost all the powers of local government have been taken away under the guise of better local government.
If one looks at the Lisbon and Nice referenda, which were re-run to obtain the outcome desired by the Irish Government, and if one looks at the current negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, which are happening under complete secrecy, perhaps therein lies the key to what led to Brexit - the utter disconnect which was felt, on this occasion by the UK electorate. We should realise that Brexit is not the problem. Brexit is the consequence of a problem, which is the failure of the ruling elite and compliant governments, our own included, to realise that the democratic deficit is an integral part of the EU. This has been pointed out by one or two sensible people and one article about the Brexit referendum by Dr. Christopher Bickerton drew my particular attention. He said:
A key theme has been the deep disenchantment voters feel about politics and the contempt they have for politicians, and there is nothing uniquely British about this ... The British-EU referendum is the tip of a much larger iceberg, a European Union of disenchantment.
I agree with that commentator that the Brexit outcome could be the basis for a new internationalism in Europe, one that gives Europe the political meaning far more profound than the shallow cosmopolitanism that comes with the economic integration of the Single Market.
Some of the leaders on the Brexit side carefully and systematically misused the issue of immigration to support their cause. I utterly deplore such actions. However, to seek to explain Brexit on that basis, or to explain it on the basis that the 17 plus million people who voted to leave did not quite understand what they were voting for is not only contemptuous of the electorate, it is also a seriously dangerous interpretation which ignores the real reasons for the Brexit vote. More important, such shallow analysis and explanations are not conducive to a proper debate on the significance of Brexit.
The EU project, which is increasingly led by an elite that is unaccountable to the people, is utterly deaf to what people in different countries, including Ireland, have been saying about the EU: its growing size and power, its overall control and the volume of legislation emanating from it. Euralex has indicated that there are some 134,000 EU rules, international agreements and legal acts binding or affecting citizens across the EU alone. With regard to the language of its unelected leaders, and it has been mentioned already about bombs going off in Dublin, our treatment of Greece was deplorable and our connivance in the treatment of Greece was simply appalling. The replacement of legitimate leaders in Italy and Greece, replaced by the EU's men, really should be ringing alarm bells in our heads. In Ireland we have been subjected to this kind of capricious power on many occasions. Remember Nice, faoi dhó, Lisbon, faoi dhó, the fiscal treaty and the bullying behaviour of the EU institutions and their unelected leaders during the financial crisis? That crisis was as much created by those same institutions, either by their direct actions or policies, or their failure to act, or both, and yet the result for Ireland was the imposition of austerity measures that hit the most vulnerable the hardest and burdened us with debts we had not incurred while the banks were enabled, with our money, to strengthen themselves again so as to trade without debt on the free market.
If the financial crisis laid bare the EU project for what it was and has become, and how little the nicely worded articles to do with equality and solidarity really matter, then Brexit has removed the remaining fig leaf. Witness the meeting of the leaders of the original six EU states, meeting in secret and issuing instructions. I listened to the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker - some president - say that it would will not be an amicable divorce. I listened to the European Council President say, while moving to reassure the EU that nothing will change, that if Britain is going, it should get out. This is topped by the German MEP who heads the European Parliament's largest political group saying that leave means leave, so get out. Better still, consider the barely contained anger in the faces of Europe's elite leaders as the vote was published of the people who dared to vote differently.
There is little enough cause for hope with any of the above comments and there is little sign that they have listened or learnt. It is clear that dissent will not be tolerated. A message is going out to other countries: "Dare not leave." In Ireland there was the repeated failure of governments to learn from the electorate, for example, in the Nice and Lisbon treaties referendums. I should rephrase it and say it was the Government's ability to learn from those referendums and to circumvent the express will of the people which should be of concern to all democrats. To change the result from the first Nice treaty referendum, legislation was pushed through in one day which prevented the Referendum Commission from giving out information on both sides. That is how terrified they were of the truth. There will be the most serious consequences for us as a country if we continue along the path of groupthink and if we continue not to question the dogma. We have been here before. We have seen the dogmatism of the Catholic Church at its most powerful in this country when bishops reigned supreme and no questions were allowed. Have we thrown off one form of subjugation only to take up another, the market as determined by those who have the power as the supreme power to whom we must serve?
Brexit should, if we have any sense, lead us to have the courage to question what the EU is and where it is taking us. We should not allow the extreme right to narrate the story for the interpretation of Brexit, nor should the right be allowed to describe or produce the type of Europe and society we want. Perhaps we could begin to listen to people who are outside of the groupthink, somebody like Wolfgang Munchau, who is totally for the European project and yet has the courage to say:
The case for Remain in the UK boiled down to an intellectually dishonest claim that Britain would be worse off economically otherwise. It was backed by the near-consensual agreement of macro-economists who, despite the many insights they have to offer, were guilty of overreach ... The fear-based Remain campaign was the pinnacle of the profession’s intellectual arrogance.
The Taoiseach has confirmed that his main aim will be to protect the Irish position, which is likely to mean him aligning himself with the new Prime Minister on certain issues. That is to be praised and welcomed. Indeed, the Taoiseach's voice was one of moderation, but that can only be judged against the rabid voices of the EU. However, he has another role, which is to question, on our behalf, the undemocratic nature of the EU and to initiate a debate on whether a social Europe, which we all desire, is at all possible given the fact that treaty after treaty, particularly the Lisbon treaty, has copperfastened the neoliberal agenda and committed us to the further militarisation of Europe.
I am delighted that, finally, the Government has published a statement. Hopefully, a task force will be established. The Taoiseach mentioned IDA Ireland and other organisations. I ask him to consider Údarás na Gaeltachta, which has a number of client companies with exports going to Britain. Finally, we must listen and learn. This is a crisis not for England, as it will survive this, but for democracy.