June 24

When Irish eyes are smiling



The defeat of the Irish referendum by 53.4% to 46.6% on the so called Treaty of Lisbon is a disappointment for those who wish to centralise power in Brussels. At 53%, the turnout was higher than expected.


Almost at the same time, the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Rudd, was suggesting the EU as a possible model for closer cooperation in Asia, a proposal criticised by former Labor Prime Ministers Robert Lee Hawke and Paul Keating (“Former PMs douse Rudd's Asian union,” News.com au, 6 June 2008).

The Treaty is no more than a rewriting of the European Union Constitution which was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands.

As a result Europe’s politicians decided to repackage the EU Constitution as the inoffensive sounding “Treaty of Lisbon,” and to ratify this through the back door – without a referendum.

Tony Blair, who solemnly promised a UK referendum, was then able to abandon his commitment to put the EU Constitution to a vote of the British people. 

In the meantime, the Irish ruling class had tried everything to get their referendum through.

Until 2001, Ireland had exemplary rules on the conduct of referendums, wrote Dan Hannan in “Ireland’s EU referendum will be no walkover” in The Spectator on 21 May 2008.

These rules seem similar to those in force in Australia. Under these every household receives a book setting out the case for either side.

But when Ireland voted No to the earlier Treaty of Nice,  this rule was repealed, giving a considerable advantage to the far better endowed ‘Yes’ case.

A consequence of this alteration, Mr. Hannan says, is that “all Irish referendums — not just those to do with Europe — are now open to bias. Thus does the EU serve to vitiate democracy within its member states.”

…an Australian plebiscite…

So how likely is it in Australia that in any “blank cheque” plebiscite the Yes and No cases will be sent out to all voters?

How likely is it that the Yes and No cases will be funded in the way that politicians’ campaigns for elections are funded?

After seeing the way the 2020 Summit was managed, if that is the correct term, either would seem unlikely.

Of course a plebiscite is only being proposed in Australia because the republicans are afraid to face the people in  a referendum.


...UK ratification …

When Mr Hannan was writing, the Irish Yes case was ahead, 35% to 18%, and the press and most of the politicians and big business behind the Yes case. But they were worried. So much so that when the Taoiseach, the Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, was accused of corruption, he was persuaded to stand down, and various proposed EU measures which might upset the Irish delayed until after the vote.

With the referendum over, attention moved to the UK. The question was whether it should complete the ratification process without the referendum promised by former Prime Minister Tony Blair when it was called a Constitution.


After the Irish defeat, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said: "It is right that we follow the view that each country must follow the ratification process to its conclusion. It is right that we continue with our own process."


Opposition Leader David Cameron described the Government's plans as the "height of arrogance" and accused the Government of "flying in the face of public opinion."


"If this is not dead, we must be able to have the referendum in this country so that we have the chance to pass judgment on this treaty and put the final nail in its coffin," he said.

According to The Sunday Times, (“Europe powers vow to push on without Irish,” The Australian 16 June, 2008) the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has indicating privately he is ready to sacrifice the Lisbon treaty rather than allow the German and French governments  to create a two-tier Europe without Ireland.


These sources said that  Mr Brown would rather see the entire constitutional treaty collapse than allow individual member states to be left trailing in a two-speed Europe, which is  where some European politicians have long wanted to put the UK.

That said, the ratification process is all but completed, with the bill passing the House of Lords (“ Britain ratifies Treaty,” Daily Telegraph, 19 June, 2008)

In a fascinating piece on the American site theTrumpet.com, “Lisbon: A Litmus Test for the British Monarchy,” Brad Macdonald calls on The Queen to veto the bill and save British sovereignty.

But this is for the British people when they next elect a House of Commons.  The Queen must give Royal Assent to the bill if so advised. Her Majesty is a constitutional monarch, and this is not an area within her personal discretion.  

…secret plans to circumvent the referendum…


According to the Bruno Waterfield in the London Daily Telegraph of 11 June 2008, Irish officials have held secret talks to implement the Lisbon Treaty regardless of any referendum on the text.


The Daily Telegraph says secret minutes show that Ireland's EU ambassador, Bobby McDonagh, pleaded with his colleagues to keep the talks and Dublin's position confidential. "[We] have to remain cautious in presenting these issues [referendum]!," the minutes record.


The House of Lords rejected a Conservative bid to force a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, with Liberal Democrat peers siding with the Government to defeat the move by 280 votes to 218.

According to Officials in Brussels are working on plans to ensure that the European Treaty is still implemented elsewhere if Ireland votes against it in the referendum.

Although measures such as creating an EU president, "foreign minister" and European diplomatic service may be delayed, they are still expected to be introduced.


One diplomat said a "bridging mechanism" was being discussed. If Ireland rejects the treaty, it may simply be removed from the list of signatories and will not be legally obliged to abide by it.


By late 2009 or early 2010, when Croatia joins the EU, an amending "Accession Treaty" will be signed by all members including Dublin.

He says that incorporated into it would be a series of protocol texts giving paper "opt-outs" on controversial Irish EU issues, such as taxation powers or greater military co-operation.


Such texts would be similar to Britain's existing protocol opt-outs on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and social issues in the Lisbon Treaty text being ratified in Westminster.


Ireland, like the rest of the Europe, does not hold referendums on EU enlargement treaties and with new protocol opt-outs Dublin may get a new Accession Treaty past the Irish parliament without a popular vote.


"This mechanism would be no more incomprehensible or legalistic than the Treaty itself," said one official.

In an admission that the Treaty is no more than the rejected constitution  in new clothes, the official continued:"It is probably no more difficult than the legal footwork necessary to turn the Constitutional Treaty into [the] Lisbon [Treaty] after the French and Dutch rejected it. The issue will be timing."

Such duplicity by the political classes should be a warning to Australians.


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