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New EU deal: Let’s face it, Ireland got screwed

Three thousand, two hundred, and one euros.

That’s the cost of the new EU deal to every man, woman and child, in Ireland. Of all the countries in the European Union, only Luxembourg residents will contribute more to the EU budget over the next few years. Irish people will pay in just under twice as much as Germans, and about three times as much as the French.

In terms of total contribution, in raw numbers, Ireland will contribute about sixteen billion euros net to the European Union – making us the fifth biggest single contributor, while Spain and Italy, countries with many times our population, will actually benefit to the tune of about a hundred and thirty billion euros between them.

These numbers are not disputed. If you are reading this and thinking “this can’t be right”, by all means, go over to the Irish Times, or the Irish Independent, or RTE, and look for the evidence that they’re wrong. You won’t find it – in fact, you will find basically nothing about what Ireland has agreed to pay in, at all. That part of the story has been completely, and shamelessly, buried.

The Irish Times, actually, went as far as to publish a story entitled “What did Ireland win from the EU talks”. You can read it here. Nowhere does it mention that every cent provided to Ireland could be matched twice over by the funds we’re pouring into the EU budget in payment for them. For every one euro we get – in CAP payments, or Brexit solidarity funds, or Covid relief, we’re going to be paying at least two euros in.

Here are the figures:

If you want more proof, the Irish Times published a piece this morning arguing that “for Ireland, the EU deal is not all about the money”:

“occasionally it’s not all about the money. The context the European Union summit deal sets for the European agenda in the next couple of years is much more important for Ireland than the cash we will get. We saw in the last crisis just how a fractious political atmosphere – and some mistaken policies – can have a huge economic cost. Perhaps some lessons have been learned.”

Funny, isn’t it, how it is all about the money until the money part doesn’t look so good, and then “it’s not all about the money”. Even in that piece, the Irish Times doesn’t tell you what the financial part of the deal entails – they just tell you not to focus on it, because it’s not important. How convenient.

Let’s be clear about this: The Government secured an unbelievably terrible deal, and it is banking on the media to simply not tell the voting public about it. The Government and the media both know that if they conducted an opinion poll and asked the public “do you think it is fair that Ireland will be one of the largest contributors to the EU budget, paying over €3,000 per person”, the results would be an overwhelming “no”. And consequently, the public are simply not going to be told about it.

If questions are asked, two lines will be used: First, that “we’re all in this together, and it’s important to remember the importance of the EU to Ireland during these trying times”, and second that “Ireland has historically benefitted from the EU”.

Both of those things are true – they’re just completely irrelevant. The importance of the EU to Ireland is primarily in making us an attractive investment location for businesses that wish to access the single market. It is not especially important to Ireland that Italy and Spain receive financial aid from EU taxpayers, especially when, as in the case of Italy, those countries lose billions in revenues every year from domestic tax evasion. In Italy, tax evasion costs the state about a hundred billion a year – about what they’re going to get from the EU. If the Italians just cleaned up their own act, they wouldn’t need Irish money – but we’ve agreed to give it to them anyway.

Ireland, by contrast, is facing a crisis in health, a crisis in housing, and a crisis in the public finances, with a record deficit due this year, and another massive deficit due next year. Why, then, are we happy to borrow money and transfer it to an Italian state that is in trouble because of its unwillingness to prosecute tax evasion? It amounts to the Irish taxpayer subsidising Italian criminals.

Ireland is one of the most pro-European countries, but it is also a country where awareness of, and understanding of, the EU, is amongst the lowest in Europe. This story demonstrates why: The public, when it comes to this EU deal, are being treated like mushrooms by their own media: Kept in the dark and fed on dung.

Even if you support this deal, it should still be important to make the details of it widely known. Ireland’s massively increased contributions to the EU budget should, surely, make us more important to, and influential in, Brussels. He who pays the piper, and all that. There’s a reasonable case to be made that this deal actually strengthens Irish influence in Brussels – but the fear of the public’s disapproval is too great for that debate to be had.

Anyway – three thousand, two hundred, and one euros. That’s what we’re paying, each of us, to fund this mess for the next few years. Next time you meet a pompous German, remind them that Ireland is making a much bigger contribution, per head of population, than they are. They’ll probably be surprised that you figured it out – because you’re absolutely not supposed to.


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