No surprises that Ireland continues to dominate the headlines as the lightning conductor for debt concerns in that strange metaphor of monetary imperialism: the core and the periphery, an exact correspondence for market and geography. Yet this jars with the funded confidence of the Irish treasury, which had the foresight to insulate themselves from the twists and turns of the bond market.
The story has shifted from the financial to the political. Ireland as the debt lodestone becomes Ireland the sacrificial scapegoat for the euro. It will not be clear for many months how much pressure has been applied to Dublin over the weekend: pressure designed to end its financial, economic and political independence. The bill for the bailout is servitude, though the options are high. Ireland, so far, refuses to co-operate with the terms of a bail-out, that would remove any competitive and fiscal advantage it might have to bounce back.
This linkage of money and tax beggars belief. Ireland, a small offshore island with the population of Berlin, is hardly a rival to France or Germany. Yet they wish to use this crisis to snuff out tax competition in Europe. How are small countries supposed to compete? The answer is, they are not. The core wants supplicants, not rivals: an attitude consistent with the blinkered, short-term mercantilism of the export model.
It is in Ireland's interest to resist this economic lunacy, especially when it is held to public, political blackmail. The only way back is through comparative advantage: selling goods and services the world wishes to buy.
Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, the Portuguese finance minister, said: “There is a risk of contagion. The risk is high because we are not facing only a national problem. It is the problems of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. This has to do with the eurozone and the stability of the eurozone, and that is why contagion in this framework is more likely.”
Mr Teixeira dos Santos added: “I would not want to lecture the Irish government on that. I want to believe they will decide to do what is most appropriate together for Ireland and the euro. I want to believe they have the vision to take the right decision.”
If Ireland weathers the pressure, attention will shift to the next on the list: Portugal. And the lessons for Portugal are the same as the lessons for Ireland. Your elected politicians are accountable to the Portuguese electorate, not their fellow Commissioners, civil servants or some European dream. Acting in an accountable fashion will save the single market, which does not depend upon a single currency for its existence. Act in the name of Europe and at the expense of your country's prosperity will test and then exceed the limits of the politically possible.