Second Irish referendum is a no brainer

It is getting a bit fraught. The trailing of a decision to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is being preceded by the usual Cassandra-like mutterings. Given that all is overshadowed by the financial crisis this is not surprising. The advice not to take is that offered by Dr John O’Brennan in today’s Irish Times.
“A referendum on nothing less than our continued membership of the union is what is required.”

The BBC’s Mark Mardell describes the package – no surprises there.

“..the plan is that by the end of this week’s summit the Irish government will declare that it intends to ratify the Lisbon Treaty by this time next year. In return other countries will agree to legally binding statements making it clear the treaty does not affect three main areas of concern to No voters: abortion, neutrality and taxation.”

Keep your eye on the Big Picture. No major EU state seriously wants an Irish train wreck to emerge from the Lisbon Treaty, a State that is in the single currency. Benelux with their strongly integrationist traditions that underpin their own statehood may be exceptions. But in a union of 27, the message from the accession states in particular must be: if a small state like Ireland is allowed to flake off, who’s next?

In the recession climate a second referendum should be a fairly easy sell. Huddle together to stay warm and keep out the big bad wolf. Bugger the “efficiency” of a small commission. And if by unlikely chance they’re all stupid enough to botch the fudge, there’s always the other great EU tradition: kick the whole thing into the long grass.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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