A-fisking we shall go – Ray Kinsella Edition

So Ray Kinsella has an op-ed in the Irish Times today advocating Irexit.  It’s full of tropes and assertions. Newspapers need to do some basic fact checking. This is the political economy equivalent of a oped calling for the repeal of gravity. My views on Irexit are wll known – see here, here, here. Irexit is proposed by the pale, male, aged, conservatives (I score 2.5, or 3 so I can say that) . It has nothing to do with economics, and  in my reading is all to do with a desire to get us back to the good old days of homogeneous Catholic poor but proud Ireland.

So, a-fisking we will go. Ray in Italics. 

We need to talk about Irexit. Seriously.

The starting point is that there is a serious conversation to be had on a deeply silly idea

 If you put your head around the door of any of the innumerable meeting rooms in which all things Brexit are being dissected, the one word that dares not speak its name is Irexit.

How does Ray know? He has no hand act or part in the negotiations.

The foolhardiness of the Brits? Yes. How badly organised and divided they are? Of course. How unrealistic their expectations are?


With a few distinguished exceptions, “official” Ireland has bought into the “spin”’.

Why is “spin” in quotes. That implies its not really spin. Does the author not believe his own spin (See, there it is used correctly, without quotations, to indicate a particular slant or point of view)

It has made the European Union the custodian of our national interests. It has ceded its responsibility for negotiations on our future relationship with our nearest neighbour and largest single-country trading partner. This makes no sense.

Ireland is one of the three red lines of the EU. Like it or not, and I guess not for Ray, we are part of the EU. Thus they do the negotiation on our behalf, but, and this is what he seems to miss, this involves enormous back and forth to ALL states. 

The risks of trading the approval of “Europe” for the long-term interests of the country are enormous.

Again, why is Europe in quotes.

Behind the charade of a “unified stance” on Brexit is a deeply divided EU with competing national agendas which have been whipped into a facile unanimity.

Whoa there Ted.  First, again the quotes. There is no evidence whatsoever of any disunity in the main debate with the UK. So, there is a unified stance as of now. Also, the competing agendas seem not to have surfaced so far.  Facile means either easy (and if its easy unanimity then there cant be disunity) or superficial (in which case the clause is redundant from the first part of the sentence)

The pressure not to break ranks is huge. In his acclaimed book Adults in the Room: My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment, former Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis documents the devastating reality of such pressures.

Yanis oversold a good idea; the Greeks lost the trust of the others long before he came on board.

Because what the UK is exiting is not Europe, but what Europe has become.

Newsflash – polities evolve.

Tragically, it is not the Europe of Schumann and Monnet or even Jacques Delors.

No because that would be a far more federalised one. I guess Ray would be even more unhappy with that. Monnet in 1950 stated “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan: rather it will be formed by taking concrete measures which bring about real solidarity.” So the Europe of 1950 is not and was not conceived of as being that of 1990 or that of 2020.

Brexit means Ireland, which shares a common stance on key issues with the UK, is left marginalised, peripheral and dependant 

Small damp island (SD, GSOH, WTR) with open economy, seeks larger entity to grow together. Interested in LTR only.

It is a hegemonistic and increasingly militarised political behemoth, controlled by Germany and, to a lesser extent, by a Franco-German identity of interests.

Economically Germany is hegemonic. That’s not surprising given it’s the largest, most dynamic, and most efficient economy. The EU military capacity is that of a very limited and in our case totally optional coordination. And Ray, the conflict between France and Germany over how much space they have to dictate Europe has been going on since about the end of the Roman Empire.

Europe is bound together by an oppressive dependency on the centre.

I literally don’t understand this sentence. Perhaps it’s a harkback to old core-peripherary debates? IS this about politics, economics, military?

Political scientists know that even the largest of other countries play in the reserves.

So can we have some evidence on this? A study in the flagship journal on the EU, Journal of Common Market Studies (Leuffen, D., Malang, T., & Wörle, S. (2014). Structure, capacity or power? explaining salience in EU decision-making. Journal of Common Market Studies, 52(3), 616-631. doi:10.1111/jcms.12100) suggests a much more complex and much more nuanced role for decision making. Ireland has shown enormous power in getting optouts, reruns of referenda, special deals, and generally making its views be heard.


Europe’s identity and its founding values have been scarred by the macroeconomics of austerity

So, to remedy the scars of austerity we need to embark on a policy that would make the last decade seem like the Golden Age?


and an unprecedented migration catastrophe caused, in part, by its support for military adventurism in the Middle East and North Africa.

We have a puppy called Suzi. As I read this this morning her ears pricked up. The catastrophe is not in Europe. We get the edges.  Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, they have a crisis. We in Europe? We have a problem. But the biggest part of the problem shows the paradox at the heart of Ray’s argument. A hegemonic europower would surely foist these poor brown and black people on us, would they not? Instead, nation states have taken wildly divergent approaches.  Anyhow, the EU HAS NO ARMED FORCES.


At its heart is a flawed monetary union, skewed towards surplus countries and a yawning “democratic deficit”.

Yes, the Euro is flawed. But if we are talking about money, and as one professor of finance to another can I suggest we are, then democratic deficits are another word for central bank independence, yes? An overly rigid money system needs a less rigid fiscal system. The flaw is the incompleteness of the hegemony.

Brexit should have been the catalyst for reform.

Why? Where? If I leave a club that has given me special deal after special deal, who should reform?

Instead, freed for the moment of the threat of “populism” generated by its own policies, the establishment has pulled down the shutters on reform.

Which establishment? The Irish one? EU? UK?

 It is now impelling members towards full political union and, beyond that, further supra-national enlargement.

Ray, that’s always been baked into the pie. Ever since 1950 that has been the plan. Now is then is always.

Brexit means Ireland, which shares a common stance on key issues with the UK, is left marginalised, peripheral and dependant. That reality bears reflecting upon.


The core responsibility of any sovereign nation is to protect the national interest. Down the road, who will uphold and advocate Ireland’s national interests?

Well…. If we look at the history of independent Ireland, we might suggest that the evidence bears the marks, until 1973, of a flagrant and insular disregard for the national interest. What happened in 1973?

Whatever the nature of the post-Brexit governance of Europe, little consideration will be given to Ireland’s needs and its capabilities. How could they be? On all issues that matter, the centre will advance its own agenda.

Again an assersion with zero evidence. And such evidence as exists suggests that it’s a bit more complex.

Amnesia can be a terrible thing. It is only prudent to remember that in the bailout negotiations the European Central Bank (ECB) cut the ground from underneath Ireland when we were at our most vulnerable. Ajai Chopra, then IMF mission chief, recalls it was the International Monetary Fund – not Europe – that advocated against the harshness of the adjustment which the ECB attempted to impose and, also, ECB pressure to impose on Ireland losses that should have been borne by the bondholders of delinquent banks. The threats of what would happen if Ireland did not come to heel came from Europe.

All true. But I love what happens next…

Old battles should not be refought – we move on.

Having just spent a paragraph of valuabe oped space refighting old battles and having railed earlier against how polities evolve and change …

 But we should learn. Facing into a post-Brexit scenario it’s clear that we cannot look to Europe to advocate Ireland’s national interests.

Why? All the evidence is that left to our own devices we don’t do a great job. We do a solid job when we have a more pooled approach .

Irexit would restore a measure of control over the development of our resources and the autonomy to develop them 

But, not the money, the human or physical capital or the administrative capacity. We tried this in the 1950s. How did that work Ray?

All of the economic modelling in the world will not resolve what is an essentially political question. Are Ireland’s national interests best served by being irrevocably integrated into this kind of Europe – one which would fossilise the Border across the island, put at risk our future relationship and multiple linages with our nearest neighbour including an EU-imposed “hard Brexit”.

To take the last first – the impetus for a hard, soft, baked, coddled, or other form of exit comes from the UK.  They are leaving. Ditto the border. Again in the wonderworld of the 1950s we had a hard border. Ray is old enough to remember that. Is Irelands best interest being linked to the larger diverse European polity (which, recall, we were, for millennia, over and above the larger island next door ) or to a smaller more homogenous entity with imperialist delusions?

Alternatively, would the national interest be better served by a “managed Irexit”, alongside Brexit?

A managed Irexit is an oxymoron. A managed “jump off a cliff on fire” is equally.

Irexit would restore a measure of control over the development of our resources and the autonomy to develop them, free from the suffocating oversight exercised from the centre.

Again repetition. And what, exactly, is being suffocated? This is a hoary old Daily Mail trope trotted out without a shred of evidence.

It would provide greater policy flexibility in relation to the labour market which took the “hit”, in the form of massive emigration, during the EU’s “austerity regime”.

I don’t follow this.  Labour market flexibility comes in two ways – participation (of which emigration is a element) or remuneration. Is Ray saying we should have state jobs for all? Or none? What policy is being stopped from happening now that we could implement ?

It would mitigate Ireland’s vulnerability to EU pressures on its “business model” which, as Wolfgang Munchau writing in the Financial Times, has pointed out is no longer “fit for purpose”.

Well yes. When you have no FDI you don’t have to worry about the tax they pay.


Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union benefit Ireland – just as they do other countries including Germany which runs a troublingly massive current account surplus.

And, as if by magic, we can Irexit and yet remain in these. Just like Britian. But we wont have any nasty nasty centre overseeing us. We can have our Cácaí milis and eat it!

Ireland is also a net contributor to the EU budget.

Yes. This reflects the massive growth in our economy since 1973 (when we joined the EU) and especially the mid 1990s (the single market). See Ray, theres a concept at the heart of the EU of convergence. It is slow, and halting, but it works, in the longterm. We gained, now we pay, so that others may gain.  Its at the very heart of the Christian democratic ethos to which the EU founders adhered.


The exploitation of our maritime resources amounts to a significant “contribution” to other EU members.

But somehow, with no navy or coastguard to speak of, we can protect and indeed preserve our fishies post Irexit? Is this a modern version of dancing at the crossroads?

“Europe” would, of course, be viscerally opposed to Irexit alongside Brexit.

Actually, I suspect they wouldn’t. They would make appropriate noises and then behind the door say “TBTG they are gone”.

We would probably experience the same opprobrium and determination to “make us pay” as the UK has – including a campaign (all too familiar) to “think again”.

All the UK is being asked to pay is its legal commitments. The debate amongst the adults is on the magnitude of the sum, not its existence. As for thinking again, I see no campaign in Europe to this. I may have missed it. There is a campaign for a second referendum in the uK. But that’s a domestic political issue.


What is?

The EU itself has every reason to facilitate a constructive separation.

You mean like they have been saying at each and every turn?

Our politics should be talking Irexit. Priority.

Err. This is gibberish. Politics do not talk. Politicians do. Or there can be a political debate on an issue. The lack of one perhaps reflects the political consensus and the national view that there is none needed in this regard, no more than one on our acquisition of a dragon.

A dependent relationship, held together by pressures and threats, is not healthy for a couple – or for a political union. A friendship, characterised by mutual respect and an acknowledgement of the interests of each of the parties, and their shared interests, is infinitely to be preferred.

So to escape the dependence of the EU where we have an integral role in its governance we should leave, perforce then to be utterly dependent without input on the UK?  What logical step have I missed there?

Ray Kinsella is Professor of Banking and Financial Services, and Healthcare at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business

Not according to their website as of 29/Aug/2017. He was, for many years. He’s retired.


8 thoughts on “A-fisking we shall go – Ray Kinsella Edition

  1. Fred Jensen

    Do you notice that the people flirting with Irexit share two attributes: They’re male and they’re generally over 60 years old? (Ray Bassett, Ray Kinsella, Tom McGuirk, Gay Byrne).

  2. SamJohnson

    This is very, very good and very funny. Well done. A few footnotes for the British innocent of the Irish language and a couple of cultural references would tie a ribbon on this.

  3. Person_XYZ

    Irexit doesn’t have to make sense for it to happen. If a sinister clown like Trump or Farage gets on the political stage in Ireland, expect their message to resonate. Words like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘control’ are toxic.

    1. Petrus

      Yes they may resonate. But without FPTP the clowns will not get enough traction. The USA is proud of their revolution, but it seems they have forgotten to get rid of a major constitutional flaw.


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