2016 brought about seismic changes to established politics. For recovering Ireland—where the political centre remains mostly intact, at least for now—the ramifications of Brexit and the election of a protectionist US President are, naturally, profound.
But we all know that, and our hyper-focus on the latest Brexit negotiations or Trump controversy, important as they are, risks distracting us from crises in the EU.
Across the Celtic Sea, on mainland Europe, the EU is being attacked and undermined on all fronts by emboldened Eurosceptics and a shaky single currency. Irish business owners, industry bodies and government must be cognisant of this and, as with Brexit, factor prolonged instability on the Continent into their medium- and long-term strategies.
While Brexit has devalued the sterling and endangered trade between the UK and Ireland, our own currency risks being weakened if not completely destroyed by Eurosceptic movements in France and Italy in particular.
This isn’t hyperbole. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National, has said that if she is elected to the French presidency in May, she will withdraw France from the euro, bring back the franc and hold a referendum on EU membership. While polls suggest she is unlikely to win, Euroscepticism has gained significant momentum in France. A Pew poll in June last year found 61 percent of the French had a ‘negative’ view of the bloc, higher than the UK.
The constitutional referendum in Italy, lost by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in December, was in many ways a revealing vote of no confidence in his government, the Italian economy and the euro. A general election by 2018 may well translate this defeat into victory for comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, which also seeks withdrawal from the euro and re-establishment of the lira. Italy’s recovery has been sluggish, and after Greece and Portugal, it is the EU’s third most indebted country. There is a growing thirst for ‘change’ among the electorate.
All this is without mentioning the never-ending bailout saga in Greece, where the spectre of ‘Grexit’ looms again, or the likely victory of the intensely Eurosceptic Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, in the Dutch general election in March. Combined, these political and financial time-bombs threaten to explode the single currency and rupture the EU.
Despite this, few Irish businesses are studying or discussing these clearly visible existential threats to the single currency and the bloc—certainly not to the same extent as they are Brexit and President Trump.
Trailblazing thought leadership
Therein lies opportunity: being among the first to analyse and carefully consider the years ahead in Europe, and the impact on Ireland, allows you to forge a trailblazing thought-leadership position. When it comes to building your communications strategy, you should be considering the implications of, at best, a bumpy ride for the EU and the single currency for the foreseeable future and, at worst, a collapse of the Eurozone and a ‘Frexit’ or ‘Nexit’. How would these events affect your clients, your industry and the wider Irish economy? PR360 has the corporate and public affairs expertise necessary to bring your insight to life.