Three part solution emerging for Ireland’s Lisbon dilemma

After the mea culpa from the Irish government already noted here , the proposals for a deal on the Lisbon Treaty are ready, according to a French government leak to the Daily Telegraph. Next month Brian Cowen will tell his fellow heads of government that Ireland can’t meet the deadline of next June’s elections to the European Parliament for a second referendum. That’s the bad news. The solution though looks like a good deal if only he can deliver it.

“The European Council on October 15th. … council would adopt a political declaration confirming that the treaty does not endanger Irish neutrality nor the rule on unanimity concerning fiscal policy, and that it would not force Ireland to legalise abortion.

After a second Irish referendum, the council would decide that all member states would continue to be represented by a commissioner after 2014.”

With a hand like that, it looks like game over but politics doesn’t always work out like that. Some other governments may object. An October 09 referendum means the June euro-elections have to be held on the basis of a 736 seat Parliament under the Nice treaty rather than 751 under Lisbon and a new commission would have to be postponed for a year. And then again, politics being especially volatile these days, the Irish people might say No again, plunging the Republic into a real political crisis.

  • bob Wilson

    Interesting piece Brian. SF would ne delighted if the elections were on the old MEP set up as they would retain Mary Lou MacDonald’s seat in Dublin which the ‘experts’ south of the border say they were destined to lose under the new arrangements.

    You didnt mention one other major factor. What are the chances of a UK General Election before October 09? Pretty high I would say. If there was a GE before Oct 09 the Conservatives would ditch the Treaty and Biffo could breath easy.

    ‘Fianna Fail prays for Tory election victory’?

  • abucs

    …….”And then again, politics being especially volatile these days, the Irish people might say No again, plunging the Republic into a real political crisis”.

    Wouldn’t a repeat of the No vote be the very atithesis of volatility, by definition ?

    And wouldn’t any political crisis be on the EU rather than Ireland ?

  • Mark McGregor

    Bob,

    Ireland loses a seat in 2009 under Nice as well.

  • And wouldn’t any political crisis be on the EU rather than Ireland ?

    I agree. I think it’s high time that it was realised by the Government and the Irish Times et al that this is a European problem, not an Irish problem, especially if European Union is worth the paper it’s written on….

  • Brian Walker

    Bob Wilson. I don’t believe there’ll be a UK general election in 09 and I don’t believe the Conservatives in office would ditch the treaty. I also believe in the reverse effect. A deal with the Irish would make it harder for the Brits to re-open the question in a year or more’s time. Cameron will not plunge his brand new government into an unrewarding confrontation with an already exasperated, overwhelming EU majority. To do so would be to end up playing a dangerous zero sum game: in or out of the EU. Watch him ease himself off the hook in the coming year on Europe, citing changed circumstances. He’d plead other priorities like the economy and could ride on the back of “guarantees” given to the Irish. That’s politics!

  • Brian Walker

    PS abucs and con. No,the tail won’t wag the the dog for ever,that’s wishful thinking. Think of the difference in scale between Ireland and the EU. Sure there’s a certain problem for the EU but it’s used to managing such crises without break-up. The bigger problem is Ireland’s but with a modicum of political skill, its solvable. Timing as usual will be crucial. The main parties have the tricky task of appearing united (or at least consistent) on Europe while competing for seats in the europarl campaign and then united again for the referendum. This might give a small advantage to naysayers like Sinn Fein but they can live with that. Personally I’d like Mary Lou to keep her seat in the interests of diversity, though I bet she takes a softer line on Europe and a harder one on managing the economy. If she doesn’t play it smart, she could lose.

  • Dave

    “No,the tail won’t wag the the dog for ever,that’s wishful thinking. Think of the difference in scale between Ireland and the EU.”

    That’s true, and it raises the question as to why a nation should relegate itself to the status of a flea on that tail. Just why should the Irish people surrender control over their sovereign internal affairs that they currently and properly have 100% over via their parliament to a foreign parliament wherein that 100% control will be reduced to 0.8% control? There is no sane or sensible reason to do this. Indeed, surrounding sovereignty over our monetary policy has proved to be economically disastrous for us with our Celtic Tiger coming to halt in the Eurozone a few years after joining it. Davvy, a division of the Bank of Ireland, stated that Ireland’s interests rates should have been fixed at 6% under the Taylor rule by the Irish central Bank in Ireland at a time when sovereignty was transferred to the European Central Bank which set interests rates at a full 4% lower than the needs of the Irish economy, given that Frankfurt was guided by the German economy. This inappropriate rate led to rapid house price inflation in Ireland, and the dismal results of that are now in effect in the Irish economy. That is what the transfer of our sovereign powers did for Ireland, and as we have hitched our monetary policy to a region of the world that is underperforming, we have traded our Tiger economy for a mean average of EU mediocrity. That is what these self-serving quislings in Fianna Fail have done.

  • Dave

    Typo: ” Indeed, [b]surrendering[/b] surrounding sovereignty over our monetary policy has proved to be economically disastrous for us…”

  • Alan

    “It raises the question as to why a nation should relegate itself to the status of a flea on that tail. ”

    Well, a flea on a dog is considerably happier than a flea looking a lift.

  • JD

    “Cameron will not plunge his brand new government into an unrewarding confrontation with an already exasperated, overwhelming EU majority. To do so would be to end up playing a dangerous zero sum game: in or out of the EU”

    Why not? If he has a united party behind him – weilding Maggie’s handbag against the Eurocrats might well go down a treat with the punters.

    The rest of the EU is not a monolith, with a number of Eastern European members becoming increasingly flaky. There is an opportunity there for a Euro-sceptic Tory Government to fashion a two tier EU to their tastes and leave the Franco-German axis confined to its “Charlemange” core in Western Europe

    Otherwise why would there be such an urgency in Brussels to resolve the “Irish Problem” before the Tories are returned to office in 2010

  • abucs

    Brian,

    if the Lisbon treaty had been passed by popular referendum in all other states i would have more sympathy with the idea we are indeed the ‘tail of the dog’ holding back large Europe.

    Of course even if that were true, Ireland would still have the right to accept or reject the entirety of the Lisbon Treaty.

    Ireland would still also have the right to push for amendments, or seek clarification.

    To sit back and accept a constitutional document with far reaching political and legal implications drafted by unknown european politicians that largely, no Irishman voted for, would then indeed be described as acting as a tail and not the head of the dog IMHO.

    At the moment we are partners in europe. Lets act like bonefide partners and not a tail waiting to be wagged.

    In the end you may be right that the Lisbon treaty is a good thing for Europe/Ireland. I personally don’t see it but if it goes ahead then i hope you are right.

    The thing that really gets me is that these treaty/constitutional changes (call it what you want) are extremely important in defining Europe and i just don’t see that it is being done in a truly democratic / ‘vox populi’ way. That bothers me.

  • It’s traditional for Ireland to hold repeat referenda until the people stop giving the “wrong” answer. This should not be a surprise. Nor should it be a surprise that few of the very real problems with the treaty are addressed in the proposed “deal”.

    The main problems to my mind (for the EU as a whole, and not just Ireland) are that a great many national powers are being ceded to the EU, and the level of “democratic accountability” being introduced to EU institutions is woefully inadequate.

    What’s worse, the huge size and diversity of the EU electorate make it fundamentally difficult to envisage a popular vote bringing about any real change of regime – this is a fundamental problem with the European Project. It’s too big to be properly accountable to the people – even if a powerful EU Parliament were a good idea, which I don’t think it is.

    Ireland itself is particularly affected by threats of losing influence and its historic neutrality. And what are the real chances that abortion won’t soon become a human right that all mothers must be allowed? Can non-binding assurances on how Europe will develop (on this or any other issue) really be trusted – or are they as ephemeral as Tony Blair’s pledges to unionists, which lasted about as long as the writing did on that blackboard?

  • cynic

    I think your headline on the thread completely mis-states the issue.

    It’s not Ireland’s Lisbon dilema ….it’s the EU’s dilema that many of the population of the member states dont want the Treaty and that pesky thing called democracy is in danger of derailing the plans of the EU plutocracy.

  • Mr E Mann

    >adopt a political declaration
    >confirming that the treaty does
    >not endanger Irish neutrality

    LOL. I’m holding out for a declaration that it will rain less in Ireland if we vote for the treaty.

  • We all know how these declarations work. Either “circumstances will have changed” by the time the troops are needed, or troops will be sent to the war zone for peacekeeping or policing duties, or in a supporting role “in a manner consistent with Ireland’s historic neutrality”. But they’ll still get shot at.

    If the firm commitment is not in the text of the agreement, it doesn’t count – as Sinn Fein reminded us about hard deadlines for decommissioning, and Sinn Feinn are finding out about the Irish Language Act, and devolution of policing and justice.

  • B Black

    Knowledge deficit’ sank Lisbon treaty in Ireland
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article4728353.ece