Business groups large and small are pressing hard for a ‘yes’ vote in Ireland’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which takes place on Friday 2 October.
With just days of the campaign remaining, Ireland’s Small Firms Association (SFA) has published a survey saying three quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) believe rejecting the treaty for a second time would have a negative impact on business.
Polls put the ‘yes’ side ahead as the vote approaches but considerable public confusion remains over the impact, if any, that the Lisbon Treaty will have on employment. Some posters claim the treaty will drive an economic recovery, while others warn workers’ rights will be crushed by Europe’s pro-industry agenda.
SFA Director Patricia Callan said “the small business community are viewing a ‘yes’ vote for the Lisbon Reform Treaty as a vote for investment, jobs and the economy”. Around four out of five SMEs view EU membership as important for the success of Irish business with exporters relying heavily on access to Europe’s internal market.
However, opponents of the Treaty have hit back stressing that Ireland’s membership of the Union is not in question.
Big business has added its financial support to the pro-Treaty side, with IBEC – the employers’ group – running a highly visible poster campaign across Ireland. The key message is that Europe will boost job creation, a point that appears to be resonating with voters fearful of losing their jobs.
“The scale of the economic crisis has highlighted how vulnerable a small, open economy like Ireland is, and the need for a strong Europe so we can together face the challenges ahead. It has crystallised the value of Europe, and reinforced the importance of Ireland’s reputation and strength within the EU,” said IBEC Director of EU and International Affairs Brendan Butler.
High-profile companies, including Ryanair and Intel, have also invested heavily in support of a ‘yes’ vote, with Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary going head-to-head in a debate with Libertas leader Declan Ganley on Ireland’s flagship current affairs programme, Prime Time.
‘No’ campaigners have decried the involvement of big-spending corporations who they accuse of supporting a treaty which will be detrimental to workers’ rights. Critics have also slammed EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani for accepting free transport and hospitality from Ryanair during the campaign.