Biffo puts Sarko to rights

He ducked and weaved, he charmed and wheedled, he went on and on and on, but the French coq couldn’t budge the Big Fella from Offaly from his stolid,” The Will of the Irish People Must Be Respected – and would you forever get the hell back to Paris quick before we vote ourselves out of Europe altogether” ( I made the last bit up but it sounds like Biffo, you have to admit).

Sarko’s bare-faced denial was magnifique.

I never said that Ireland had to organise a new referendum, I said that at some stage or another the Irish had to be given the opportunity to give their opinion..

So that’s alright then!

Brian Cowen was little further forward apres Sarkozy than before; but at least the damage limitation seems to have worked.
And with it, just the faintest of outlines from Sarkozy on what the future may hold.. He didn’t quite say it, he hardly needed to, but there’s no question of a second referendum before the elections for the European Parliament in June 2009 – if at all.

But – “We have to have some certainty about elections, on the basis of Nice or Lisbon.

“Nice”, (the Treaty of 2001) means no reduction of seats from 785 to 751 in the Parliament and deferring the admission of Romania and Bulgaria which would have brought total membership to 27 states – the enlargement that, in turn, would have triggered the reduction and realignment of seats.

“Some certainty” means Cowen will have to confirm by the end of the year, probably October, that there’s no going back on this referendum.

Again, Sarkozy didn’t need to say it but the impasse means everyone gets to keep their Commissioner. That will be welcomed

The Irish he said, would “work on a list of all the issues that are open to debate” in “a hierarchy of problems,” and “Brian” would report on these in September before the EU October Council.

“It’s early days, you will need time, there’s no deadline” he soothed, but ( on the other hand ) 24 countries will have ratified the Lisbon treaty by the end of the year”. ( So you Irish, the Treaty is NOT dead, he didn’t say).

Just a hint perhaps from Brian Cowen on the medium term future?

“The idea that one size fits all takes away from the fact that this is a very accommodating Union. The idea that you are compelled is not the way.”

In 1919, the first Dail demanded the “right of small nations” to attend the Versailles peace conference but was refused.
In the referendum, Irish voters may not have grasped the detail, but they somehow felt this “right” was again at stake and they were about to be cheated out of it again. It will take all the flexibility the EU can muster to assert that right.

  • Pete Baker

    Some see a conspiracy in imagery

    My own theory – which is the most devilishly conspiratorial of all – is that Sarko knows perfectly well what he’s doing. He doesn’t care about alienating Irish public opinion because he is already resigned to the fact that there will be no second referendum in Ireland. What we are seeing, rather, is a piece of careful choreography. Aggressive French leader flies to Dublin, orders rough rug-headed kerns to submit. Brave Taoiseach refuses to be bullied, tells French leader to aller sauter dans un lac. Lisbon Treaty abandoned in present form. Victory for people. Kudos to Biffo.

    Except that, with or without formal ratification, the contents of the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty will be implemented. Some clauses will be shoved through by parliamentary ratification. Some will be tacked on to the Croatian accession treaty. Some will simply be declared to be in force by the 27 governments. Indeed, large chunks already have been, including such critical initiatives as the pan-European diplomatic corps and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

  • ulsterfan

    Agree Pete.
    Ireland will continue to be opposed to the Treaty in theory but will fall in behind the rest of Europe and accept the terms agreed between our partners and de facto implement the terms as if they had ratified the Treaty in the first place and will deal with the few unimportant legal challenges which might arise
    An Irish solution to a European problem

  • Oilifear

    “Ireland will continue to be opposed to the Treaty in theory…”

    … except Ireland – or at least the Government and every other plausible permutation of government – is wholly in favour of the treaty.

    Ulsterfan and Pete, spot on. Look at Chad, look at the WTO, look at John Bruton, Lisbon is already implemented. Indeed, as Sarkozy is adept at pointing out, some parts (the cut in the number of Commissioners) will even come five years earlier.

    There is little in Lisbon that I can think of off hand that can’t be implemented in a chewing-gum-and-Sellotape fashion so long as the political will exists. That will does exist, indeed it may even be rallied by this “crisis”.

  • Brian Walker

    There’s a very worrying unanimity of comment on this one: what’s gone wrong? Agreed, except to say that no fiendishly clever conspiracy needs to be at work here. The likely outcomes are fairly obvious and on the surface. You only think of it as a conspiracy if you’re a euro-sceptic.

    However…

    David Cameron has just confirmed that, if ratification of the Lisbon Treaty were not complete in every one of the 27 EU states, an incoming Conservative Government would carry out its promise to hold a referendum and recommend a “No” vote. (Andrew Marr Show BBC1 Sunday July 20)

    This means the Irish may have the incoming British PM in the palm of their hands. How is Cameron going to get out of that one?

  • Garibaldy

    Probably the same way Labour did Brian.

  • Oilifear

    “You only think of it as a conspiracy if you’re a euro-sceptic.”

    … or are a Europhile but have a sentimental affection for democracy. We are, after all, left with the awkward reality that the people did say ‘no’. It may have been okay a decade or so ago, but at this stage of the game I am growing a little uneasy that a the European proto-state is being built on anti-democratic principles even if their heart is in the right place.

    But anyway, that’s not why I post …

    “This means the Irish may have the incoming British PM in the palm of their hands.”

    … I don’t follow.

  • Dave

    On the contrary, any parts of the Treaty that were rejected by referendum cannot be implemented in Ireland, and any attempt to do so by the Irish government will see the inevitable challenge in the Irish Supreme Court.

  • Oilifear

    @Dave

    So, (to make a far-fetched example) if the European Council and the Council of Ministers decided tomorrow that, from now on, they would simply follow the rule for qualified majority voting as laid out by Lisbon anyway – not “officially”, of course, but simply as a matter of a “gentleman’s agreement” between themselves (“officially” such “votes” would be be carried unanimously as part of the “gentleman’s agreement”) – what would you do?

    The the Taoiseach and government ministers may vote however they see fit. So they voluntarily relinquish their veto as part of a “gentleman’s agreement”? So what? There would be absolutely nothing illegal about it.

  • Earnan

    It’s pathetic how “enlightened” and “progressive” EU elites don’t care what about the majority of their people think but are implementing the new EU treaty without even giving their people a chance to vote on it (except for Ireland, obviously).

    That would be great if somehow the UK voted on it and voted no, leaving the British Isles on thier own.

  • Tom

    For what it’s worth Brian, the 2009 European election under Nice rules would actually mean fewer MEPs elected than under Lisbon rules (736 v. 751).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apportionment_in_the_European_Parliament

  • Dave

    Oilfear, see the case of Crotty Vs, An Taoiseach.

    This, of course, precisely illustrates why the government must resign when the people vote against a referendum that the government supports. Apart from it being a matter of honour that a government should resign when it disagrees with the will of the people on such an important matter, there is also a pragmatic reason why the people should insist on the resignation of the government: the people simply cannot trust the government to respect the will of the people when the government disagrees with that will.

  • Oilifear

    Crotty? Dave, you miss the point. No constitutional change required. What’s more, I’ll throw this in to the ring:

    If the continued existence of any legal system is based on it’s perceived authority – and the governments of Europe simply go ahead with Lisbon via “gentleman’s agreements”, work-arounds and the tacking together the scraps that what already exists etc. – it reduces the authority of the European state to a matter of redundancy.

    What if in 100/200 years time, June 12th 2008 become one of those dates that history students have to learn but not fully grasp it’s significance? That, ironically, Ireland’s ‘no’ vote comes, in the fullness of time, to be understood as the marking-point of the beginning-of-the-end for the European nation state? The point at which the governments of Europe simply walked away from the authority of the nation state and did their own thing, therein starting a new era in Europe.

  • Dave,
    You view ignores the fact that there is no coherent reason why a small majority voted no. Instead we have a rag-bag of reasons – some valid (losing full time commissioner) and others based on imagined fears (neutrality / abortion / consription / tax).
    If the government resigned and called a general election do you really think the people would end up voting in an anti-Lisbon coalition? Declan Ganley as taoiseach, Gerry Adams as tanaiste 😉 Nope – thought not.
    I agree with Pete/UF, the coming years will see the substantive portions of Lisbon implemented in a piece meal fashion. The wording/drafting will be different so Crotty v Taoiseach won’t apply. And remember, there was an argument that Lisbon as a whole might have stood regardless of Crotty i.e. it would have been possible to ratify through the Dail. Yes, there would have been a challenge but there is some legal opinion out there that it might have stood. Of course political imperative meant that the issue had to go to the people but if you consider that as a whole it might have stood, then piecemeal / parcelled-up pieces of legislation certainly will.
    My conclusion, the Irish people did no-one (including themselves) any favours in June.

  • Brian Walker

    Oilifear
    I commented:
    ” David Cameron has just confirmed that, if ratification of the Lisbon Treaty were not complete in every one of the 27 EU states, an incoming Conservative Government would carry out its promise to hold a referendum and recommend a “No” vote. (Andrew Marr Show BBC1 Sunday July 20)

    This means the Irish may have the incoming British PM in the palm of their hands. How is Cameron going to get out of that one?

    You say you don’t follow. The issue is this.

    Assuming the Irish do not ratify the existing Treaty and everyone else does, Cameron would hold a UK referendum he says. I doubt if he really wants one; he is banking on either Irish ratification by 2010 (unlikely we think?) or a change of context that would negate the need for a referendum. A UK referendum campaign would be a huge, unpredictable distraction for a new Conservative government. A British No vote would cause an upheaval in the EU that would dwarf the Irish response and cause a new Conservative gvt all sorts of trouble. A Yes vote would make him look silly.
    Cameron must count on piecemeal implementation of EU reform outside a treaty format or some other strategy or device. But if the Irish position still has traction by the time of the next UK election in 2010, Cameron if he keeps his word, will have to hold a referendum. That’s why in a sense the Taoiseach would hold Cameron in the palm of his hand. A continuing Irish veto would have the effect of altering the shape of British politics for an entire Parliament.

  • “Cameron would hold a UK referendum he says. I doubt if he really wants one”

    Don’t agree with that Brian. I think since Cameron’s ascendancy, euroscepticism is now mainstream Tory policy. Europhile Tories like Heseltine and Clark are very much yesterday’s men. If they held a referendum on Lisbon there would be a massive ‘no’ vote – 20+ years of anti-EU scaremongering by (most of) the British press has done its work. This would also be a chance for Cameron to put some clear blue water between the Tories and Labour over an issue where the populist mood is decidedly in his favour.

  • Dave

    Oilifear, Article 6 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Read it, then read Crotty v. An Taoiseach. Any transfer of sovereignty to Europe by the Irish government requires the consent of the Irish people via referendum. There is no backdoor by which traitors such as yourself may give Ireland to Europhiles in order to create their new fascist state.

  • George

    Brian,
    Nice”, (the Treaty of 2001) means no reduction of seats from 785 to 751 in the Parliament and deferring the admission of Romania and Bulgaria which would have brought total membership to 27 states.

    Romania and Bulgaria are already members of the EU. Their accession was covered by the Nice Treaty.

    Again, Sarkozy didn’t need to say it but the impasse means everyone gets to keep their Commissioner. That will be welcomed.

    I don’t believe that’s true. As far as my understanding goes, the number of Commissioners can be reduced under the provisions of the Nice Treaty.

    Oilifear,
    “No constitutional change required.”

    It’s not that simple thanks to Dev and Crotty, as Dave pointed out.

    Any Treaty that involves handing over new powers to a foreign body requires a referendum. So any part of the Lisbon Treaty that gives powers beyond those envisaged in previously constitutionally ratified European Treaties requires a referendum.

    In other words, anything the Irish Government signs up to will not have force of law in Ireland if the ultimate arbiter isn’t the Irish Courts of Dáil Éireann.

    Which parts of the Lisbon Treaty do you feel meet those rather limiting requirements?

    Unless you mean the EU will be happy for us to do things like sign up to Lisbon Directives where we are the only country in the EU in which they have no legal power to implement them?

  • George

    should read “Irish Courts or Dáil Éireann” in previous post.

  • “Oilifear, Article 6 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Read it, then read Crotty v. An Taoiseach. Any transfer of sovereignty to Europe by the Irish government requires the consent of the Irish people via referendum. There is no backdoor by which traitors such as yourself may give Ireland to Europhiles in order to create their new fascist state.”

    Yes this is true for increasing competencies of the EU, or further pooling sovereignty. Under lisbon I believe the increased competency would have been in areas of tourism, culture, sport and energy.

    So you can’t move or share sovereignty in these areas from DE to the EU without a referendum, which is why we had one in June.

    You can however reform voting however you see fit within the EU. You can remove or add commissioners at will. You can do anything you like with the existing areas of competency. You just won’t be able to organise a football tournament or common energy policy. Nice one.

    Also its ridiculous to have to point this out again and again, but it’s not Ireland’s commissioner, it’s a European Commissioner appointed by Ireland, who can be removed from the job if they are seen to be acting in a biased fashion towards Ireland.

    I bet a lot of people didn’t even know that it’s Charlie McCreevy the ‘Keep our Commissioner’ posters were talking about. I’d say you would have got a landslide ‘yes’ if Libertas had stuck his smarmy mug on their posters.

  • Oilifear

    Dave and George, there is no legal reason why the “gentleman’s agreement” I describe above cannot happen. How our ministers choose to use (or not to use) their veto is a matter for the government of the day, not the Supreme Court.

    As my fellow quisling Traitor points out, the practical extent of the No vote is effectivly nil so long as the will of Europe’s elite is towards Lisbon – minus of course the checks and balances on the extent and powers of genuine EU institutions (as opposed to the lawlessness of “gentlemen’s agreements”) that we would have had with Lisbon.

  • Greenflag

    ulstermanutdfan,

    ‘You view ignores the fact that there is no coherent reason why a small majority voted no. Instead we have a rag-bag of reasons – some valid (losing full time commissioner) and others based on imagined fears (neutrality / abortion / conscription / tax).’

    Dave ignores everything bar his ‘devotion’ to 19th century ideas on ‘national sovereignty’.

    Correction is in order -a small minority voted NO not a small majority . 27% voted NO – 25% voted yes and the remainder 48% approx did not vote at all . A huge majority in the Dail would have voted YES had it been left to the Dail to decide . Are we seriously to believe that 160 of 166 elected TD’s are ‘quisling traitors ‘ as per Dave . Complete nonsense .

    In any event hose who voted NO were a mix of extreme right wing neo con nut jobs and left wing xenophobic ultra national socialists . A brilliant combination to ruin any country 🙁

    Europe as a whole has put those disparate elements where they belong – in the past . Even Serbia the last ‘ultra nationalist ‘ state in the Balkans -has arrested former Bosnian Serb leader Radavan Karadzic on war crimes and genocide charges against Bosnian Muslims and Croats . Serbia expects this will help their EU application as well it should .

    Meanwhile back in the SF/Libertas land of Dave and his Quisling Finder General world and ‘It’s all a German plot conspiratorial ‘ fantasises it just maybe that the realisation is dawning in the midst of an ‘economic crisis’ that the June result did not benefit Ireland but instead did the reverse .

    Those who hope that an ‘alliance’ with the rest of the Anglosphere including a Euro phobic Britain led by Mr Cameron is the answer I would say they need to pay attention to the likely direction of the next USA administration which is going to listen a lot more to the EU than the present one .

  • Greenflag

    ‘There is no backdoor by which traitors such as yourself may give Ireland to Europhiles in order to create their new fascist state.’

    There is no frontdoor to your idiotic remark as above stated . How can a combination combination of 27 democratic countries lead to a One Party Fascist EU State ? There must be at least 200 political parties throughout the EU as well as several combinations in the EU Parliament .

    Xenophobic drivel once again masquerading as ‘high minded ‘ concern for 19th century ideas of ‘national sovereignty ‘

  • George

    Oilifear,
    there is no legal reason why the “gentleman’s agreement” I describe above cannot happen. How our ministers choose to use (or not to use) their veto is a matter for the government of the day, not the Supreme Court.

    You aren’t answering the question and I think are unaware of the constitutional problems.

    But, for the fun of it, let’s run with your premise that, somehow, the Irish Government, could circumvent the Bunreacht pothole.

    Well, the first problem I see would be EU Regulations.

    Unlike Directives, EU Regulations have legal force in member states without the need for any further domestic legislative act.

    As this option of dealing with EU Regulations would not be open to Ireland for any of the areas covered by Lisbon, each Regulation would have to go through the Dáil.

    There are currently well over 3,000 EU regulations published in the EU journal each year with the number constantly growing.

    Are you telling me that Dáil Éireann is in the position to put another couple of thousand pieces of legislation through each year?

  • Greenflag – give it a rest. The method for which referendum results are valid is found in Bunreacht na hEireann. It doesn’t have your pet theories on “qualified majorities” therein.

    Have to disagree with George and Dave above.

    George – it is not true to say that “Any Treaty that involves handing over new powers to a foreign body requires a referendum.” Crotty vs An Taoiseach was specifically referring for foreigh affairs powers. Since the Lisbon Treaty does include a foreign affairs component, it is my view that it therefore requires a referendum per Crotty, but I am not a lawyer let alone a Supreme Court Justice.

    Dave – “This, of course, precisely illustrates why the government must resign when the people vote against a referendum that the government supports.” I disagree wholeheartedly. To proceed along those lines would mean that governments try even harder to cut the People out of decisions rightfully theirs, lest their governments fall as a result. A government should be accountable solely for actions they take using their delegated powers.

  • Oilifear

    George,

    Please read the previous exchanges in a conversation before jumping in (see: Jul 22, 2008 @ 01:43 AM).

    The premise (already signaled as being a far-fetched example) is that those elements that are currently under QMV or unanimity could be brought under Lisbon-like QMV – or indeed any other system of decision making – with no more than the simple will for it to be so (the “gentlemans agreement”).

    The premise is not that the Lisbon Treaty could be adopted without being affirmed through a constitutional referendum.

    It is however being argued that a Lisbon-like EU can trundle on with-or-without ratification of Lisbon … and that this is probably what will happen.

  • George

    Mark,
    Crotty vs An Taoiseach was specifically referring for foreigh affairs powers.

    While the Supreme Court held that the foreign policy provisions of the SEA breached Article 5, the issue was more to do with whether the foreign affairs powers envisaged under the SEA, as Chief Justice Finlay put it:

    “altered the essential scope or objectives of the Communities”.

    That is the crux of Crotty and that is the issue with Lisbon.

    Any part of Lisbon that alters the essential scope and objectives of the EU is unconstitutional unless ratified by referendum as it doesn’t come under Article 29.4.3, which the Article that gives primacy to EU law over Irish law.

    So the argument would be that energy, tourism etc. sections of Lisbon, which were not part of the essential scope and objectives of previous Treaties, therefore fall foul of Crotty.

    Oilifear,
    in other words, any new areas of competency covered by Lisbon would be shelved?

  • Oilifear – explain to me how a Treaty document can be overridden by a mere agreement?

    Lisbon-like powers can only be assumed under roles NOT currently specified under the current consolidated treaties by means of the “fast track” provisions where countries can elect to cooperate more closely. Ireland could elect to join these without referendum if they did not involve foreign affairs.

    Existing QMV under Nice/Amsterdam would have to stay exactly as it is until the Treaties are amended per their amending formula.

  • Oilifear – Ireland can abstain in order to “let a measure go through” under existing QMV but the question is whether gentlemen’s agreements as proposed in your post of 0143 are in the interest of fair dealing with the people the government represent.

    George
    Interesting point

  • Brian Walker

    George 17. Apologies for mental white-out, mixing up Nice and Lisbon and not remembering that Bulgaria and Romania were admitted through Nice and not pending under would- be Lisbon.

    I don’t know what came over me your honour. A blogger has no business getting established facts wrong and I apologise to all, especially those whom I misled.

    Nice rather than Lisbon means reducing MEP numbers from 785 to 732. Under Lisbon it would be 751. In addition, the maximum number of seats allocated to a state would be lowered to ninety-six, from the current ninety-nine, and the minimum number of seats would be raised to six, from the current five.
    Thus, Sarkozy’s and the general concern about the short time available to decide total number and national allocations of seats for the next Euro-election in less than a year.

    On reducing the number of commissioners, Nice did indeed foreshadow a reduction from 27 after 27 States had joined, but without specifying the target number. UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain gave up their second commissioner. Lisbon would cut numbers to 18, meaning that with five year terms, each country would be without a commissioner for a third of the time in a 15 year cycle. My understanding is that at the moment, the status quo of a single commissioner for each member State would be maintained until at least the dust settles over Lisbon. There are strong opinions in favour of making the status quo permanent, even if that means that some portfolios would be held by 2 commissioners, one senior, the other junior. Rather like the Treasury, with the Chancellor and Chief Secretary both cabinet members. However with ratification almost complete minus one, maybe they won’t do it. It would surely sweeten the pill in Ireland though, for whatever formula emerges.

  • Brian Walker

    15 Ulsterman etc

    I stick with the view that Cameron privately may not want a referendum. It might do for the election campaign, though in the past the eurosceptic cause has always been a disaster. And this time, the Conservatives surely have enough ammunition without resorting to its doubtful potency. Not because the British electorate is pro- ; merely indifferent.

  • Oilifear

    George –

    “in other words, any new areas of competency covered by Lisbon would be shelved?”

    Yes – the few new competencies that there were – or at least they must be dealt with outside the fringes of the “offical” EU.

    So, for example, Lisbon would have allowed EU to assist national parliaments in efforts to do coordinate tourism – a new competency for the EU. Now, with Lisbon shot down, the EU may not … but of course there is nothing to stop government ministers agreeing common tourism policies while chatting in the corridors before a summit.

    Mark –

    “.. the question is whether gentlemen’s agreements as proposed in your post of 0143 are in the interest of fair dealing with the people the government represent.”

    As I wrote at 12:52, “I am growing a little uneasy that the European proto-state is being built on anti-democratic principles even if their heart is in the right place.”

    “.. explain to me how a Treaty document can be overridden by a mere agreement?”

    You explained yourself. Even in the matter of foreign affairs, there is nothing to stop Ireland from shadowing the decisions of a foreign affairs fast track, restating their line, participating as a “observer”, until everyone knew what it really meant. ‘De jure’ we may not join, but ‘de facto’ is what counts.

  • 29,1 county Prod

    Ireland for the Irish, no Europs!

  • Dave

    George, exactly right. The judgement is profound in that its ramification extend to more that the particular issue of the appeal and into upholding the principle of the appeal – and it is that principle that would be violated were the government to tansfer the sovereignty of the Irish people to the EU without the consent of the Irish people (not granted for the new areas where sovereignty is tansfered via Lisbon):

    “In enacting the Constitution the people conferred full freedom of action upon the Government to decide matters of foreign policy and to act as it thinks fit on any particular issue so far as policy is concerned and as, in the opinion of the Government, the occasion requires. In my view, this freedom does not carry with it the power to abdicate that freedom or to enter into binding agreements with other States to exercise that power in a particular way or to refrain from exercising it save by particular procedures, and so to bind the State in its freedom of action in its foreign policy. The freedom to formulate foreign policy is just as much a mark of sovereignty as the freedom to form economic policy and the freedom to legislate. The latter two have now been curtailed by the consent of the people to the amendment of the Constitution which is contained in Article 29, s. 4, sub-s. 3 of the Constitution. If it is now desired to qualify, curtail or inhibit the existing sovereign power to formulate and to pursue such foreign policies as from time to time to the Government may seem proper, it is not within the power of the Government itself to do so. The foreign policy organ of the State cannot, within the terms of the Constitution, agree to impose upon itself, the State or upon the people the contemplated restrictions upon freedom of action. To acquire the power to do so would, in my opinion, require a recourse to the people “whose right it is” in the words of Article 6 “…in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.” In the last analysis it is the people themselves who are the guardians of the Constitution. In my view, the assent of the people is a necessary prerequisite to the ratification of so much of the Single European Act as consists of title III thereof. On these grounds I would allow this appeal.” – Judgment of the Court delivered pursuant to the provisions of Article 34.4.5° by Finlay CJ, Raymond Crotty Vs. An Taoiseach and Others

    As Judge Finlay pointed out, the government does not own the sovereignty but merely exercises it with the consent of the people and, ergo, does not have the right to tansfer that sovereignty to others without the consent of the people. This is why, like the American model and unlike the degraded European models, sovereignty resides with the people in Ireland and not with the government.