By Shane Flanagan
There is one thing that should be said about the European Union’s ruling on our tax laws in the “Apple” case, and that is quite simply, the people complaining the loudest were all largely campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. This is an obvious point, but it is to my mind the most pertinent detail in the whole debacle. There is a lot to say about the recriminations and gesticulations doing the rounds from our government, yet the ruling has been useful in that it has illustrated so quickly after the Brexit vote that a lot of people fundamentally don’t seem to understand what the European Union actually is and what the ideas that underpin its creation are. Either that or they are massively in denial.
The supposed €13 billion available to Irish taxpayers induces a kind of Robin Hood fantasy, yet leaving that aside is it not more interesting that those clambering in anger are what would nominally be referred to as Europhiles? The most galling example of these is Michael O Leary. Now, I like Michael O Leary as a public figure, he’s an unapologetic businessman which to my mind means that in some loose sense he is at best a salesman and at worst a conman. Yet, Mr. O Leary in fairness is no stranger to battling against the EU previously and is now saying that we should just virtually ignore the EU ruling on our tax laws. No problem there except a little over two months ago he was actively campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU.
Now, in my estimation, Mr. O Leary’s opinions are clearly driven by self-interest, no harm in that except that people are very willing to listen to someone of his stature, except the British public of course. But, if he and others like him were advocating for a remain vote why now become selective on what EU directives we should follow? Complaints from people towards the EU who have these selective views make a mockery of those who have constructed logical objections to the EU previously such as myself. For my troubles I have been labelled many unpleasant things, most startlingly of all was the accusation of being somehow racist for merely questioning EU border policies and territorial ambitions. Yet, here again we find ourselves in another dispute with the EU after the reaction to the financial crisis and the Brexit vote.
Opinion of the EU is high here for the moment anyway. I think what this clearly illustrates is that people are not actually aware of what the EU is for. Most people rather understandably think the EU is very useful for allowing them to go on weekend trips abroad and tend to put objections to the project out of their mind. In my view, this is a dangerously naïve outlook on Europe. I am a proud European citizen and firmly believe that long-term peace in Europe has been an amazing achievement. Yet, those running the EU are clearly working toward their vision of a Utopia. I don’t believe in any such thing, this is not because I am a pessimist but rather because I am a realist, informed by history. If you don’t believe me on this matter then you merely have to look at Jean-Claude Juncker’s statements this previous week declaiming the ideas of national borders as a heresy to the Union. May I remind you that this is the president of the European Commission and not some lowly civil servant in Brussels.
The EU runs on the left-wing ideals that came to prominence in Europe after the Second World War, especially in Germany. Along with this, the EU has often bowed to corporatism as well as socialist philosophies. Hardly surprising considering the design of the global economy and we must note that even in saintly Germany the corporate beast has much power, Merkel did her utmost to help Volkswagen after the emissions scandal. I have no interest in seeing Ireland being controlled from afar (and thus defeating the point Irish independence) through a specific philosophy of corporatism twinned the social values of the left wing, but to those that do good luck to them, just don’t plead ignorance. I am aware that some may say that the EU ruling is actually a strike for tax justice and essentially anti-corporate. Really? I guess time will tell if we really do see this estimated €13 billion or whether it gets divvied elsewhere.
More pressingly for us is the idea of our tax system. Whatever your views on it I think I should note that although I am not an economist the idea of tax harmonization and economic alignment is troubling. No doubt there is a lot of money to be made through such means but if one large economy was to crash would the knock on affect not be even more magnified? It’s said that if you need to point to Nazism in order to prove a point then you have already lost the argument, I won’t do that here then but I shall leave you with the vision of a centrist government with a large bureaucracy which fell afoul of an economic crash. That was the Weimar Republic of Germany whose failure led to the rise of the national socialist party there. History repeats itself you know.