Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Lisbon Treaty

I've been asked - like, actually, seriously asked - for my opinion on the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland, by three separate people now (and jokingly by half a dozen more). So here goes - this was originally a comment on someone else's blog, edited here for usefulness.

It's a treaty, so of course it's complicated. It's a treaty which is catering to special circumstances of 27 participant countries, so of course it's even more complicated. Nobody else is having a referendum about it, because everyone else in Europe has real governments, and constitutions that aren't made of 19th century wishes and conservative horse glue.

I've read the Referendum Commission's leaflet, and done some more research. It's pretty much unreservedly useful, and should go straight ahead. They've even made special provision for us in the various military aspects.

There are two referenda we actually need to have:

On that excises all the nonsense about neutrality - at the moment, we're hanging onto it for historical romance and a feeling of "ah, sure, who'd invade us anyway" - and

One that leaves us with a situation where the government can do what we're paying them to do, instead of spending ludicrous amounts of money asking the whole damn voting population about a multi-hundred-page treaty. It's closer to democracy in the proper sense of the word, but until it's all online - and everyone has access to it - it's not practical in terms of cost.

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At Thursday, May 22, 2008 2:58:00 p.m., Anonymous Juan Flynn said...

"Nobody else is having a referendum about it, because everyone else in Europe has real governments,"

It's refreshing to find someone with so much trust in our government to do the right thing.

"...and constitutions that aren't made of 19th century wishes and conservative horse glue."

Yeah, the Magna Carta (and subsequent patches, precedents and laws) is just so accessible. Nope, I'll take our constitution any day over what they have in the UK.

Of course countries like France do have written constitutions and indeed they did have a referendum for the Nice treaty. But, alas, the public chose the wrong answer so their govt decided no to ask the bothersome public about future treaties.

I feel pretty lucky that it is the people in Ireland who get to give the say to patching our constitution. And I fear that saying 'yes' to the forthcoming referendum will mean that in the future the government will just say yes to whatever plans and scheme the forces in Europe usher them into to. We'll be just like those other suckers elsewhere in the world.

It's clear we'll lose a lot of power with the Lisbon treaty. We'll lose our veto in many more areas. Currently, small countries like Ireland can use these vetos as leverage in other areas where we have already lost our vetos.
Do we really want to optionally give up more of our power just out of a feeling of offending Europe?

Mark my words - if we give up more of our vetos we'll feel our arms being twisted in taxation (corporation tax especially). We'll still have our veto in tax but what's the use of a groin protector when someone can just poke us in the eye? We need to keep as many of our vetos as possible.

A trite comparison though it may be, but one only has to look to the Eurovision Song Contest to see how things are going to operate in the future. With a lot of new eastern European countries entered and entering in to the EU, votes in the future are increasingly likely to go their way, according to their values and what suits them. Bloc(k) voting will have a whole new and painful meaning.

I like Europe, I really do. At one stage I would have considered myself a federalist when I saw all the benefits that Europe has brought Ireland.

But you know what - we don't have to vote 'yes' just to say thank you. In fact, I'm sure many people around Europe who didn't get they the opportunity to disagree with the Lisbon treaty will be hoping that we vote 'no'. There's a big 'no' voice all around Europe that is going unheard.

At this potentially unique moment in time we have the power. We can say no to this treaty. And sure as eggs they'll have to put their thinking caps back on and try again.

I want reform in Europe. The treaty does contain many positive elements. But it also contains concessions that Ireland would have to make. It is possible for a treaty to be presented to us that cleans up much of the EU's operations but that won't reduce Ireland's power and vetos. It would be a smaller, simpler treaty. One that might even be understandable and readable by the masses.

A vote 'yes', while doing a lot of good reforming the EU, is also a vote towards a Federal Europe and it will lose Ireland a bit more of it's power and sovereignty.


At Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:12:00 p.m., Blogger Drew Shiel said...

I don't trust the government as far as I could throw them, but if they're to do what they're supposed to, they need not to be shackled by bizarre and outdated bits of the constitution.

Sure, a written constitution is better than an unwritten one. However, a modern written constitution, written with an eye to reality, would be better again.

I don't think Ireland's veto is of much value - indeed, I think the veto is a poor mechanism at the best of times. And I'm not too gone on Irish independence - until Europe stepped in to help us, we were a second world country. So more European control looks pretty good to me - we'd get a decent transport network, corruption in politicians would be treated as an actual crime, not something they always do, and maybe education would work a bit better.

Indeed, Europe's correct answer to a no vote would be to toss us out. If we can't play nice, we shouldn't be allowed in the playground. And should that come to pass, there'll be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth.

At Friday, June 13, 2008 9:01:00 p.m., Anonymous tomcosgrave said...

Drew, your comment on the reason we had this referendum is fundamentally wrong; we are having it because of a case called Crotty v An Taoiseach, which dates from 1987.

And if you look at the Constitution of 1937 when it was written and promulgated, and compare it with what governed other European countries at that time, some of it is amazingly liberal!

Socially it is conservative, but it can be modified by the people, and it has been done in the past. It will be done again in the future. It is my constitution - it annoys me, pleases me, and enrages me; but I still love it.


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