The fate of Europe, and the direction of the EU rests in the hands of the people of Ireland, again.
It has been confirmed that a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will be held in Ireland in October, probably on October 2nd. The second referendum has come about because of the no vote registered by voters in Ireland last year, which has held the whole treaty up.
It is not the first time that Ireland has been asked to vote again after registering the “wrong decision” and it is a disgusting trend that the people of Europe have again registered via the ballot box disapproval for the direction of the EU for that vote to be ignored and later overturned.
The Taoiseach (Brian Cowen) has said that he has won key legal guarantees from Brussels in areas of taxation, neutrality and ethical issues and that these guarantees will be entered as an amendment to the Lisbon treaty post ratification.
But the fact of the matter is that the Lisbon Treaty will not change one bit, not by one word and the Irish will again be told to vote on text that they have rejected. The Treaty cannot be amended without the possibility of legal challenges in those countries that have ratified the Treaty already. The Treaty is a rehash of the earlier European Constitution, which was killed by the voters of France & the Netherlands.
In the presence of concerns from Irish voters, assurances will be given, but they will not carry any real weight because of the refusal to amend the actual Treaty to include such concerns. If Irish concerns were to be correctly addressed, the Treaty would surely have been amended to include these.
I am from the UK, but I spent much time in Ireland last year (preparing for and then getting married there) and followed the original Irish referendum. I hope to through English eyes talk to the concerns that I heard raised in Ireland.
Firstly there is a concern about the Legal Personality granted to the EU. The present relationship is still viewed in Ireland largely as one of co-operation between nations rather than of the EU being a supreme government; but that will change post-Lisbon. Ireland fought long and hard for independence from Britain and there are many that question the wisdom of handing principle control of Ireland to Brussels.
These concerns are increased when we look at Article 9 whereby the European Council changes from an inter-governmental body to that of an EU institution without a direct link to the people of Europe and without any electoral mandate, control or accountability. Article 9 also removes a member states automatic right to have an EU Commissioner and deliberately sets out that the Commission shall be independent from the electorate and from interference from National Governments. It re-asserts the Commission as the Executive Function of the Union and sole competence over has what is termed “Power of Initiative”.
“The Commission shall neither seek nor take instruction from any government or other institution, body, office or entity”
Previously when people have pointed to the gapping democratic deficit in the EU model, pro-EU arguments have centred on National Governments control over appointment of EU Commissioners. This is a poor rebuttal, but even that slim thread of Democratic semblance is to be lost under Lisbon. The EU executive cannot be thrown out by any voters, and as such does not listen to it’s voices, but instead listens to central banks, lobbyists and think-tanks. With reduced participation from member states in this body, the Democratic Deficit grows, and I would surmise to too will voter disenfranchisement with the EU.
Article 48 of Lisbon gives the EU in a post-Lisbon world the powers necessary to amend its own treaties and articles without recourse or accountability to national governments or electorates and without the need for new Treaties. As such, this is the blank cheque that the EU wants for it means that despite any arguments and despite any assurances the EU has power to make laws in any area it sees fit to do so. The EU will in future not require national ratifications to assume control in any area or to legislate however it sees fit to do so. In handing this control to Brussels, the assurances received by the Taoiseach are worthless, because the EU can from now on do what it likes, and can legislate in any way it wants and the Irish Constitution which has required Referenda until now is superseded. That includes tax law and that included legislating on ethical issues, such as Abortion.
UK Red Lines were also secured, these were created so as to give the appearance that the UK Government was safe-guarding UK interests and self-governance. This is of course a myth, a smoke-screen which has served its purpose and is no longer even alluded to.
Michael Connarty MP said on behalf of the EU Scrutiny committee during the UK analysis,
"We believe that the red lines will not be sustainable. Looking at the legalities and use of the European Court of Justice, we believe these will be challenged bit by bit and eventually the UK will be in a position where all of the treaty will eventually apply to the UK. If they can't get these things firmed up, we think they will leak like a sieve."
This is not just hearsay, this is what has happened with every assurance, rebate and red-line that has ever been put into place between the UK and the EU; the ones that are in place still are being challenged bit by bit, disregarded, ignored or in the case of the Working Time Directive, new EU legislation forcing a universal maximum working week is being rail-roaded despite previous assurances to the contrary. This is being done with the explicit and enthusiastic support of Labour MEPs.
See also what the reaction was to the EU flag and anthem, removed from the EU Constitution so as to allow an argument that this treaty was different and “not constitutional” – these have already been through a separate initiative brought into legitimacy via the EU.
The EU always gets what it desires.
EU powers are increased and formally the EU takes control of a number of competencies associated with national governments some of which have not been openly debated. Common policy (i.e. internal EU policy), foreign policy (i.e. external to EU), Security policies, harmonisation of criminal law, extension of the powers to the EU Public Prosecutor, Defence policy, extension to existing trade policies, justice and economic policies.
These powers are surrendered forever, with the only possible recourse to leave the EU altogether to re-establish self-determination. Such action is dramatic and extreme, but is the ultimate consequence following on from decades of prescribed direction and legislation from the EU enthusiasts. Expect sanctions and disincentives to be threatened against those who oppose the EU, for they are its enemy and dissenting arguments are absolutely not allowed. The club has become a bourgeois aristocracy built upon an uneasy cooperation between the corporatist and a broad Socialist extreme. Forget past allegiances, once you become servile to the EU, it is your only master.
The European Council (where nationally appointed Government members meet, such as foreign secretaries on Foreign policy..) will move from a requirement of Unanimity to QMV (Qualified Majority Voting). This is likely to result in the bigger nations being able to asset more control on Council Meetings and initiatives, as the bigger nations control more of the EU budget. Certainly the influence and concerns of a single nation with presence at the council can now be simply disregarded. I am told that the result for Ireland is a net reduction in influence on this particular body perhaps as much as halving their voting influence via the complicated QMV system, but there is a similar loss across the smaller or less influential nations and an increase in the control available to the big 3 nations, UK, Germany & France.
In short the aim had been of the EU Council to find international consensus, this will be replaced under Lisbon with the Council being a function of the EU, not a place for national politicians and leaders to meet. The pursuit of consensus will be replaced with the pursuit of majority consent.
The Treaty on a whole has been drawn up by and serves only those who favour a Federal Europe and strong-arms opponents with the threat of economic loss for non-cooperation (which is debateable, but admittedly more risky in the credit-crunch world). A corporatist bint is held up and falsely presented as pursuing capitalistic aims, as too are social and green issues the smokescreen for pursuit of personal comforts and equality.
Like the rest of Europe the people of Ireland are concerned about the economy. Initially the EU has brought much economic success and business have taken advantage of Ireland being a relatively low cost place to set up their business in the only other English speaking country in the EU. However, the cost of business is going up, and real costs in Ireland have increased. It was noticeable to me on our earlier trips to Ireland in 2007 that day-to-day things were slightly, but noticeably more expensive to the UK. I am not talking about Dublin which like most capital cities is more expensive that the rest of the country. The cost of visiting Ireland increased all through 2008 as the £ tanked against the €.
But having had the opportunity to speak to people in Ireland they are weighing up the EU benefits and those benefits obtained by national initiative. For example, the low rate of corporation tax versus the UK had provided the opportunity for UK based companies to open offices across the water and move their head offices and principle accounting to Ireland rather than the UK. There was an initiative from within the EU to harmonise Corporation Tax across the EU, the cost to Ireland of such EU legislation could sent their economy backwards.
The no-votes of the French and the Dutch have been ignored, and instead of looking to increase democratic controls and accountability, these are eroded further under Lisbon. The influence of the enthusiastic bloc of large nations on just about any issue will outweigh and overrule national governments and the wishes of any (or even all) of the EU electorate. You don’t need to read too much history to know that every single time such power has been centralised and accumulated by such a central source it is always used to bring misery to those who oppose the direction of that body. Voters are consistently denied a voice, and when, on those few opportunities some voters have been consulted (when it was thought that they would vote in favour for the EU, or where there has been no choice) these votes have been ignored.
As I said above, there is nothing the EU can offer the people of Ireland in a way of protecting concerns over Tax and over ethical issues such as abortion. It is impossible in Europe today to make any assurance or document that challenges the authority of the EU – for it is already supreme, but is greedy for more. As it is supreme, it is free to overturn any assurance it grants, as it has when assurances have been granted in the past. For what it is worth, I do not trust the word of the EU on any issue and any assurances will surely be ignored at a later date. The people of Ireland got the vote that the people of the UK and many other EU countries were denied. They, in the infinite wisdom of an electorate made the right decision by voting no before, and as nothing has changed I hope they vote the same way again.
It is my hope that we in Europe can move away from this 18th Century notion of unifying Europe under one system of governance, and make everything the same. It cannot be done without the implementation of tyrannical instruments and at the cost of misery and usually the loss of many lives. But if you do believe it is possible to find a way to bring about a Union in Europe, the EU in its present form is not the answer, and can never be the answer. There is nothing in Lisbon that changes that for the better, only provisions to the detriment of democratic accountability.
Much like before the first referendum, the assumption was that the people of Ireland would vote yes, but I am not convinced. Real people when presented with the facts have the capacity to consider wider issues and the future. Ireland was right last time, and with nothing new or different to vote on this time will, I believe, vote the same way again.