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Pre-European Council Meeting: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace] Hickel's remarks are based on research published in 2017 by the US-based Global Financial Integrity and the centre for applied research at the Norwegian School of Economics. It is the most comprehensive assessment of resource transfers ever undertaken and it puts Ireland at the centre of the crisis in the global south. If we look at all the years since 1980, net outflows add up to a mad total of $16.3 trillion. That is how much money has been drained out of the global south over the past few decades. One of the central ways in which this transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been executed is through illicit tax flows through tax havens, of which Ireland is one.

  It is not Common Security and Defence Policy missions but stopping the flow of arms into the global south that will address one of the root causes of people fleeing war and instability. In South Sudan, for instance, English, Ukrainian, Israeli and Emirates firms are on record as having sold arms to both sides in the dreadful war there. The annual report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute finds that global arms sales have increased by 2.5% since 2016 and the top 100 arms manufacturers sold $398 billion worth of arms in 2017. Of these sales, 57% were made by US companies while western European companies accounted for 23.8%. This effectively means that 81% of weapons sales by the biggest 100 global companies were based in NATO countries. The West produces the armaments that heighten conflicts from northern Africa to central Asia. America, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Norway, Switzerland, Finland and Greece have all profited by fuelling the war on the people of Yemen, where up to 14 million are at risk of starvation. The situation in Yemen is horrific and we have stayed silent on it. We do not send peacekeeping missions to Yemen. We send our politicians to shake hands and do business with men who are using famine as a weapon of war.

  Neither will the root causes be addressed by sending the Naval Service on a military mission to the Mediterranean to help Libyan militias to capture refugees and bring them back to sites of torture and rape. The stories coming out of the detention centres there are nothing short of shocking. Most of the detained are in Tripoli and the fighting has kicked off again with opposition militias, many of which are being backed by the UN. They are fighting for control of the north west of the country. Médecins Sans Frontières and its partner SOS Méditerranée have been forced by the Italian state and other European governments to terminate operation by its search and rescue vessel, the Aquarius. The EU wants the people who are trying to escape the mayhem we have created for them to rot in detention or drown in the ocean. The EU describes this as a plan that is paying off. We should raise our voice and challenge this because it is terrible.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Deputy Mattie McGrath is sharing four minutes of his time with Deputy Seán Haughey, in the spirit of confidence and supply and co-operation.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Indeed I am, in the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of the acclamation that Deputy Micheál Martin made to the nation in the course of this pre-European Council meeting debate. As the singer Johnny Logan would say, "What's another year?" What is five minutes in the context of another year? It is nothing.

The Taoiseach is imithe now but almost every time that a meeting of the European Council has taken place in the last year, it has been preceded by one crisis or another. It has been a very rocky and bumpy road. However, the crisis engulfing the politics and Parliament of the United Kingdom now appears to be genuinely chaotic and looks set to confirm our worst fears in terms of the negative impact of a hard Brexit. It is astonishing. Management of the crisis, if it was ever real, is now slipping out of all control and that is quite apparent to one and all. Despite her determination and resilience, Mrs. May is, to all intents and purposes, a lame duck Prime Minister who appears likely to become yet another victim of Tory party infighting over Europe. It is a sad spectacle to watch as the uncertainty around the effects on our economy and many other economies grows.

Mrs. May postponed the vote on the withdrawal agreement in Westminster because she simply could not generate the support required for what almost everyone agrees is a deeply problematic arrangement. It is unfair to members of the UK Parliament to expect them to sign up to and support an agreement that locks them into a backstop arrangement from which they cannot extract themselves. As we know, our nearest neighbours are a very proud people whose ancestors conquered the world and developed the British Empire. Pride, which is one of the seven deadly sins, is a big part of the problem here. The British want to be proud and, to borrow a phrase, they want to make England great again. It seems that the backstop issue is one where politics, as the art of the possible and of compromise, is destined to fail. Is mór an trua an rud sin. It is very sad.

The British Prime Minister said that she would go back to the EU and seek further clarification on the legal nature of the backstop protocol but before she even landed in Brussels, the door was slammed in her face by Mr. Juncker which is a real pity. While I must recognise and acknowledge the support we have received from our EU colleagues, I am suspicious of it at the same time. The support is certainly there and the agreement, on which I was briefed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, when it was finalised, is very good for Northern Ireland. Indeed, it is quite a good agreement for the Republic of Ireland too. While we must acknowledge that, we must also ask, at what price? What will we be expected to deliver afterwards, when and if there is a crash-out Brexit? There is serious uncertainty about the impact of a crash-out Brexit on our lives and our economy. This is especially true with regard to rural Ireland and the agricultural sector which exports so much of its produce to the United Kingdom.

The EU's approach is giving fuel to those elements of the UK political class who have their faces set against any constructive deal. Closing the door in Mrs. May's face before she had even gotten off the plane was not constructive; she should have been embraced. This has been going on from the very start. There has been no empathy for or understanding of the British position. Neither has there been any examination or in-depth analysis of the reasons for the Brexit vote. We all know that there were many reasons for that vote, with immigration being only one. Other reasons include a lack of autonomy and a sense of being governed from afar by big brother, as well as of being neglected. Neglect by the EU was demonstrated during our financial crisis with the so-called bail out, which I described as a clean out. I voted against it because the EU charged us 6% while the IMF loaned us money at less than 3%. In the meantime, we face unimaginable consequences if a hard Brexit or no deal scenario comes to pass. People are so fearful, especially those who have invested heavily in businesses. There are many fears with regard to job security too.

Added to this crisis, the European Council must also deal with the continuing difficulties with Italy and the ongoing rows about budgetary oversight. The Italian people and their leaders are simply not prepared to take threats about punitive financial penalties lying down and nor should they. They have seen what happened to us and to other member states like Greece in the past. Youth unemployment in Italy is over 30%, which is staggering. The population is expected to face declining living standards, lowered prospects for upward mobility and high unemployment. This is the next crisis. The hard men in Brussels might not get away with their tough talk so easily when it comes to the Italians. Yet again, the EU leadership is adopting a hardline approach to this issue which is astonishing the Italian people. It is also antagonising them. They are starting to look over their shoulders and to understand why the British voted for Brexit. As I said, the Italian people and their leaders are not prepared to take threats about punitive financial penalties lying down.

These issues point to massive levels of disruption up ahead.

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